10 Breastfeeding Truths
Many new moms will hear lots of breastfeeding horror stories, see formula advertisements or even receive "just in case" formula samples in the mail. These stories and advertisements often plant a seed of low confidence and cause you to question your ability to perform the first task as a mother - to feed your infant. Below is a compilation of some of the most common difficulties along with breastfeeding truths and helpful information to hopefully make new moms feel more confident and prepared.
1. Every mom wants the best for her baby
Expectations put upon moms today are very intense and our societal support structure hasn't quite caught up with the science of why breastfeeding is important. There are many efforts to help moms get breastfeeding support after delivery, avoid embarrassing discrimination while breastfeeding in public, and support moms going back to work. Despite these efforts, many moms still face challenges and do not reach their breastfeeding goals. Regardless of how you define breastfeeding success, you are a good mom and no one can care for your baby better than you. Have confidence that you are doing what is best for your baby and your family.
2. Your body is designed to make milk
They don't teach this in health class, but the reason that women have breasts is not for men's pleasure or for selling products. Just in case the person next to you needs a reminder, this great PSA sums it up nicely.
We are mammals. From puberty a woman's breasts are getting ready for their task. It is very rare that a mom will not be able to make enough breast milk for her baby. For the most part, breast milk supply is established day 3-5 after delivery based on stimulation and milk drainage. If a baby is getting supplements and the breasts are not being drained, your body thinks that you do not need to make that milk and milk supply will decrease.
If your baby is not latching well, losing too much weight, or not having enough wet and dirty diapers seek help early to identify the problem. If you investigate early and protect your milk supply, you will be well on your way to making enough breast milk for your baby because that is what your body is designed to do.
3. You have the right to breastfeed anywhere
Many moms are concerned about breastfeeding in public. Some moms might even pump and put milk in a bottle, so that they can avoid embarrassment. Have confidence! You are doing more than just feeding your child; you are setting them up for optimal growth and development.
Take comfort in the fact that you also have support. 49 states including Texas recognize how important breastfeeding is and provide protection for your right to feed your baby anywhere that you have the right to be. Find a link to all state laws related to breastfeeding in public here.
4. Your milk is specially designed for your baby and impossible to replicate in a lab
The optimal food and nutrition for a human child is human milk. Breast milk substitutes will contribute to infant growth, but breastmilk is much more than just a food. Your breast milk has living immunities that change every day depending on the bacteria and viruses in your baby's environment. Once exposed to an illness, within 24 hours your breast milk contains the antibodies that your baby needs in order to fight off that infection. Your breast milk has stem cells that could potentially act as an internal repair system. Your milk is species specific and will never be replicated by using another animal's milk.
5. Any amount of breast milk is beneficial for your baby
The optimal breastfeeding duration is 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of solid foods for at least 1 year until both mom and baby are ready to wean. The weaning process could last for several years.
If you are not able to reach these goals due to societal pressure, difficulty with breastfeeding, or simply because these goals are not your own, you are a good mom and any amount of your milk that your baby receives is beneficial for their growth and development. Refer back to Truth 1 and Truth 4. Every ounce of breast milk is beneficial for you baby. If you need help making more milk, check out our line of Breastfeeding Products.
6. You do not have to have a perfect diet to provide optimal nutrition for your baby
Your body will provide for your baby first and for you second. Even moms who are truly malnourished will still be providing their child with all of the antibodies and immunological protection that their child needs in order to fight off infection. She will still have all of the proteins, carbs, and fat that her baby needs as well. While there will be some degree of variation, vitamin content is the main ingredient that is directly correlated with maternal diet. If mom is deficient in vitamin content, it will also be deficient in her milk.
It is recommended that you take a postnatal multivitamin during breastfeeding to replenish vitamin stores to ensure that both you and baby are getting all that you need. Throw all the other myths that you can't eat beans or spicy food aside. Eat a good variety of foods and take vitamin supplements and you and your baby will be happy and healthy.
7. Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding
Basically all medications and supplements state on the label "do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding." However, there are only a small number of medications that are contraindicated while breastfeeding. Pseudoephedrine poses the biggest risk in over the counter medications as it can decrease milk supply.
It is important to speak with your doctor before taking any medications because medical history may play a role, but you would be surprised at the medications that are safe to use while breastfeeding. Consult your local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or the Infant Risk Center, 806-352-2519 if you have questions.
8. Your partner will still bond with your baby without giving bottles
Dads can sometimes soothe baby better than anyone else. A baby lying skin to skin with dad or even just lying on your chest while listening to your voice will quickly soothe the savage beast. Baby recognizes your voice from in-utero. Just remember repetition to soothe - patting on the back, rocking, bouncing. Anything repetitious will be soothing. This cuddling and relaxation is a special bond that all dads will enjoy and moms will appreciate.
9. Breastfeeding moms actually get more sleep at night than their bottle feeding counterparts
On average breastfeeding moms get 40 minutes more sleep at night and triple the amount of good quality sleep. This occurs because your sleep cycle synchronizes with baby. As your baby is waking, so are you. You are also given a boost of relaxing hormones while you are breastfeeding to help you fall right back to sleep once your baby is finished breastfeeding. The good intentioned suggestion to give a bottle instead of breastfeeding will in most cases not improve sleep as mom is waking with baby anyway and skipping a feeding will decrease milk supply.
If you are trying to get more rest at night, keep baby close to you so that you can easily breastfeed without really getting up and ask dad or your support partner to take care of diapers and soothing when baby has been well fed but is still fussy.
10. If you have concerns, help is at your fingertips
Look for a local IBCLC.
Contribution by: Janet Jones IBCLC, RLC