5 Lies You've Been Told About Breastfeeding
Lie #1: You saw a “lactation consultant”
There are many different levels and skillsets of people in the breastfeeding world. Some people are volunteer helpers like La Leche League leaders or your state's breastfeeding support hotline. Some people are educators or counselors like CLCs (Certified Lactation Counselor) or CLECs (Certified Lactation Educator Counselor) and CBEs (Childbirth Educator). Others are nurses with some lactation education. But the highest credential and the only credential in breastfeeding that denotes someone having clinical skills is an IBCLC. IBCLCs are healthcare providers. As such, we work in medical settings, treat breastfeeding and lactation issues, and have the most comprehensive and in depth training when it comes to breastfeeding. Depending on the level of support you need, you’ll choose the provider that’s right for your situation. Need emotional support? An educator or counselor can offer that. Need to know the basics and get support and education? A LLL meeting might be right for you. But if you have any pathological issues like pain, infant weight concerns, mastitis, milk production concerns, issues with pumping, etc., PLEASE see an IBCLC. No one else has the training they do to help with breastfeeding health issues. On that note, also beware of the phrase “lactation nurse”. While they are excellent helpers with latching in the hospital, they are not always IBCLCs and many of these people refer to themselves as “lactation consultants”.
Lie #2: Breastfeeding hurts in the beginning
NO---just no! Breastfeeding should never ever hurt. EVER. You don't need to do anything during your pregnancy to prepare your nipples so they won’t hurt when it comes time to latch your baby. If breastfeeding hurts, contact an IBCLC right away. Don't wait, watch videos on YouTube, ask friends, etc. You want to get expert help right from the beginning. Not doing so makes you more likely to give up on breastfeeding early or begin unnecessary supplementation of your baby.
I'll say it again. Breastfeeding should never hurt you--seek help if it does.
Lie #3: You need to build up a freezer stash of milk
This is something I think we've all seen on Pinterest. Even if you're going back to work full time, you don't need a giant freezer full of milk. Can you guess how much milk you need to have saved up before they return to work? You need about as many ounces for as many hours as you will be away from your child. Just enough for that first day back—that’s it. You'll be pumping milk when you are at work and that milk will go to feed your baby the next day. Each day you’ll be pumping the milk your baby needs for the following day. Is it a good idea to have a little extra on hand just in case? Yes! But no need to go overboard. And if you aren’t returning to work outside the home, then you likely don’t need to pump at all. Even if you leave your baby for a few hours to go do something on your own, you can nurse your baby right before you leave and right when you come back. You can hand express for those rare occasions, which is sometimes more productive than pumping.
Lie #4: Breast size in an indicator of how much milk you can make
Not true at all! It’s not even an indicator of how much storage capacity you have for milk. Breast size just tells us how much fatty tissue is in your breasts. Your breast size will also continue to change throughout the end of your pregnancy, and then again after birth once you enter the secretory phase of milk production (commonly referred to as milk “coming in”). Some women have larger storage capacities than others. All that really means is that a woman with small storage capacity will have a baby feeding on both breasts for every feeding and feeding more frequently. A woman with a larger storage capacity and faster rate of milk production may have a baby who will only take milk from one breast at a time--her baby may go longer between breastfeeds. You and your baby are perfectly matched, and your breastmilk is suited to their exact needs, both in composition and in quantity.
Lie #5: Breastfeeding is natural, therefore it is easy
Unfortunately this is rarely true. Breastfeeding problems are ubiquitous in our society. There's a lot of cultural wisdom that has been fragmented and lost over the last few hundred years. From birth interventions, to the normalization of bottle feeding, and the poor breastfeeding advice, women are having a harder time than ever getting breastfeeding off to a great start. Not knowing where to go for help is the first problem, and also not getting adequate help. Perhaps you’ve seen an IBCLC in the hospital but you are still having problems—seek out an IBCLC in private practice. We are located all over the world, and some of us even take insurance if that is important to you. We're able to do a lot more than lactation consultants in the hospital and many of us have walked a difficult journey ourselves and we want to provide the support we never had. I know that’s true for me! Get a second opinion, third, etc. until you’ve met your goals and resolved any problems. Breastfeeding is natural but it is also a learned behavior for both you and your baby. It is utterly fulfilling and magical when it goes well, and it is stressful when there are problems. Know that you have access to a wealth of wonderful resources out there and we are here for you!!