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Busting Up Breastfeeding Myths

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I was fortunate enough to breastfeed my son for nearly two years.  You don’t make it that far without hearing some incredibly untrue “facts” about breastfeeding. These myths are often presented as “anecdata” (it happened to their friend’s uncle’s doctor’s wife’s dog’s nanny’s sister) or meant as support from a well-meaning individual. Unfortunately, these half-truths can easily deter a new mom who has just started breastfeeding.

Here are some breastfeeding myths I’ve heard frequently:

“Breastfeeding will hurt”

Although it’s normal to experience tenderness or discomfort for the first few days, it should be temporary. If the pain you feel is unbearable or gets to the point where you cannot stand to breastfeed, please contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for assistance and information. Breastfeeding is natural, but it does not come naturally to many women. You and your baby are beginners, not experts. Since each child can be different than the last, it’s not unusual for moms to need help with subsequent nurslings as well.

“There’s no point in breastfeeding after 6 weeks/6 months/1 year”

Many large health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months and continuing until at least 12 months or longer as long as it is mutually desired for mom and baby. The health benefits of breastmilk do not magically disappear at a certain age. In fact, many benefits continue for both mom and nursling past infancy. Websites like Kellymom.com have a long list of the benefits of breastfeeding beyond 12 months.

“Breastfeeding in public is against the law”

It is not illegal in most states. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: 45 states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, and 28 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. It is up to the mother and baby dyad to decide how they are comfortable nursing: covered or uncovered, in a separate area or in the middle of the room.  Moms breastfeeding in public are trying to feed their child and move on with their day. They are not trying to make some sort of statement, unless they’re at a nurse in (then all bets are off).

“Pumping is a good indicator of breastmilk supply”

As breastfeeding mothers, we often want a qualitative way to measure our breastmilk supply. A breast pump seems like a good way to do it, right? Unfortunately, pumping output is not indicative of breastmilk supply. A healthy baby is more efficient at emptying your breast than a breast pump. Part of this is because not all moms respond well to a breast pump. Some mothers are able to pump a lot of milk at one sitting and others never are able to pump more than a few drops even though their baby is removing plenty of milk. If you have more questions about pumping, visit Kellymom’s section on pumping.

What breastfeeding myths have you heard?

Naya Weber is mom to an independent toddler and studying to become an IBCLC. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and breastfeeding advocacy.