You’ve got through roughly 42 weeks of pregnancy (while we’re setting the record straight, we’re pregnant for longer than 9 months people), given birth to a little bundle of screaming joy, and now you need to keep them alive. And we’re telling you now, a lot of people will have a lot of advice to give you. While some might be helpful – go easy on yourself, breastfeeding is hard, etc – some might be less useful.So we’re here to bust the myths surrounding breastfeeding and get to the bottom of what’s true and what’s not. Because lord knows you’ll be getting ALOT of unsolicited advice coming your way once you start feeding your little one.
Myth 1: If you don’t breastfeed, you’re a bad mom
Absolute rubbish. Plenty of amazing moms either can’t or don’t breastfeed their little ones which is why it’s so important to address this myth first. If you don’t breastfeed your child, you are in no way, shape, or form a bad mama. Although breastfeeding provides health benefits for both yourself and your baby, if you choose not to breastfeed, it’s your decision to make and that does not make you a bad mom. Got that?
Myth 2: Breastfeeding will make your breasts sag
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of motherhood that your breasts might start to go south after having kids, but that’s usually down to pregnancy, not breastfeeding. Research has found that the risk of breasts sagging increases with every pregnancy, but breastfeeding itself has no effect on this. When you're pregnant and breastfeeding initially you might notice your boobs looking bigger, but once you’ve established a breastfeeding routine, it’s likely they’ll drop back in size. Then once your baby is weaned, your breasts usually go back to thier pre-pregnancy size. So we see, enjoy the extra cup sizes while you can mama.
Myth 3: You won’t be able to breastfeed if you’ve had breast augmentation surgery
Boob jobs are a controversial issue when it comes to breastfeeding, and although some breast augmentation surgery will prevent you from breastfeeding, it really depends on the type of procedure. If you’ve had an implant, it’s likely that this was inserted near the armpit or under the breast tissue or chest muscle, which shouldn't interfere with breastfeeding. However, if the nipple was removed and reattached, this can disrupt the nerves that trigger milk letdown, and therefore breastfeeding could be hampered. The same applies to breast reduction surgery, in the case where the nipple is removed and reattached.
Myth 4: Exercise will make your breast milk sour
As much as we’d love to give you an excuse not to go to the gym, this isn’t actually true. The theory behind this is that exercise or workouts produce high levels of lactic acid within the body and in turn, in your breast milk, causing it to be sour and unpalatable for babies. But babies can't actually taste the difference, or if they can, they just don't care. However, a salty nipple might put your baby off feeding, so if you’ve exercised and are planning on feeding, shower first to get rid of the salty sweat.
Myth 5: You shouldn’t breastfeed if you’re ill
Instead of causing harm, breast milk is actually a brilliant way of boosting your baby's immune system and that includes if you’re ill. When you’re ill, your body will be producing antibodies and these are transferred to your baby via your breast milk. So if your baby does end up getting the same illness that you’re suffering with, chances are it’ll only have a mild version and will fight it off much quicker than you did. They don’t call it magic milk for nothing ya know.
Myth 6: You need to toughen up your nipples in order to breastfeed
While this might be true, you don't need to actually do anything as women's bodies are so smart that they just do it for us during pregnancy. Before your baby is even born, your body will make the area around your nipples thicken and cause the glands in your areolas to produce oils for lubrication and protection. Then once the baby has arrived and you begin breastfeeding, a surge in the hormone oxytocin will make your nipples stretchy and more pliable for your baby's mouth. Mind-boggling but true.
Myth 7: You won’t be able to produce enough milk to feed your baby if you have small breasts
You might look at other mamas with DDs and be thinking they must find it easier to breastfeed, but breast size doesn’t actually have any effect on how much milk you produce. Breast size is made up of fatty tissue, whereas the milk ducts are located in the functional tissue and that’s what grows in response to your pregnancy. So if you’re part of the small breast brigade remember it doesn't actually matter what bra size you wear, you'll be perfectly capable of providing for your little one.
Myth 8: If you feed your baby with a bottle, they’ll no longer go to the breast
This can ring true for some mamas, but generally, babies will happily feed via a bottle and the breast with no problem. If you're planning on alternating though, most breastfeeding specialists recommend waiting 6 weeks until you introduce the bottle so that your baby is comfy with feeding on the breast first.
Myth 9: Breastfeeding is easy
Maybe one of the most frustrating myths for new mamas. Breastfeeding is not easy. While it’s true that babies are born with the reflex to look for their mom's breast to feed, it doesn't make it easy. Every mom is going to have a different breastfeeding experience, and most moms will need help positioning their baby for feeding and making sure that the baby is latched on correctly. Modern pressures like going back to work straight away can also make breastfeeding more difficult, so go easy on yourself.
Myth 10: You should clean your nipples before breastfeeding
OK so a sweaty workout can give your nipples a salty taste, and maybe a sea swim will do the same, but on the whole, there's no need to clean your nipples before breastfeeding. Cleaning them can actually neutralize a natural substance that our nipples produce which your baby can smell.
Myth 11: You should only eat plain or bland foods when breastfeeding
A lot is said about the diets of breastfeeding moms, but to be honest, this just feels like another way for society to police our bodies. What you eat, on the whole, will not affect breastfeeding. Of course, we recommend eating a healthy balanced diet, but that's as much for keeping your energy levels up as it is for breastfeeding. While some foods can slightly change the flavor of breast milk, but that’s generally a good thing and can be a great way of exposing your baby to different flavors (because no one wants a fussy toddler). If you’re interested in more information regarding diets for nursing mums, we’ve got just that here. So eat those spicy chicken wings, mama. It’s all good.
Breastfeeding myths, officially busted
Much the same as most things in life, people are always going to have opinions on how things are done and often spread misinformation. As a new mom, you’ll learn that while they might be trying to help, you should go with what feels right for you and try not to get bogged down in their advice. You’ve got this mama.