It’s World Breastfeeding Week and despite every credible organization under the sun spouting the benefits of breastfeeding, there are always going to be myths that try to discredit (typically) in the name of formula/baby food lobbying. This week, we just want to take a minute to dispel those myths, and encourage breastfeeding for a healthier planet.
The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.” Every year, to promote the many breastfeeding benefits for mothers and babies, the health branch of the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates this week as World Breastfeeding Week.
And it’s because there are still a ton of breastfeeding myths out there that the UN even has to dispel misconceptions on a regular basis. Because these misconceptions are not only cultural but the result of targeted marketing from baby formula and food companies, the UN wants to ensure that every woman has access to counseling and awareness to dispel myths. The myths many women (and societies) have about breastfeeding act as significant barriers to the breastfeeding practices of women around the world, and we join the UN in helping dispel the myths and educate about the importance of breastfeeding.
Related: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Breastfeeding
Particularly because we’re natural mamas ourselves, we find this important. We find it a sensitive topic, as many moms want to nurse and for whatever reason, they’re not able to. We don’t ever want moms to feel judged, and we are the first to say that nursing your baby is HARD and education and support are key to helping moms stay on the breastfeeding track. That’s why we’re working to dispel myths too, and guide you to support as you need it.
Myths About Breastfeeding That Need Debunking
Myth 1: You can’t (or shouldn’t) breastfeed if you’re sick.
WRONG! You absolutely can (and should!) if you are sick and feel up to it. If you’re taking some medicine that may enter the milk, you may want to check with your doctor about its effect (though odds are, if you could take it pregnant, you can take it nursing), but otherwise? Nursing your baby when you’re ill is actually a great thing because you’re giving your baby antibodies that will help HER fight anything. And while today’s obvious elephant in the room is COVID-19 and its effects on baby with positive mothers, the science still supports nursing your baby. Additionally, it supports that breastmilk antibodies can even possibly fight COVID-19 in others too!
Myth 2: Nursing just hurts your nipples. Get used to it.
WRONG! The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) agrees that sometimes, new mothers may experience discomfort in their initial days of breastfeeding as they get used to it. Sometimes, nipples may be sore if babies are aggressive or, if baby is teething, you might feel it more.
But nursing, in general, should not really hurt and if it does, you should check with a lactation specialist as soon as you can. The baby may not be latching appropriately (and this isn’t just painful for you; she may not be getting enough milk either). She may not be positioned in a comfortable way. There may be a tongue-tie you don’t know about (painful for you both). Check with your lactation coach for support because too many mothers stop nursing because of pain they don’t have to suffer.
Myth 3: If you don’t make enough milk, you can’t nurse.
We understand this is a sensitive topic because many mothers do have supply issues. The thing is, all too often, clinicians will make you feel that your baby is starving and if you don’t offer formula, you’re a bad mom. We believe fed is best, of course, but many mamas don’t realize that if they’re not producing enough milk, there could be other issues. If your baby isn’t latching correctly, you may not be able to produce enough milk. If she’s not taking enough milk, your body may not produce more because it doesn’t want to waste. You may not be nursing enough, and your body may be regulating in a different way. You may not be getting enough sleep, the right diet, enough hydration or exercise. All of this boils down to being supported, and if you’re not, you may not only make enough milk, but feel like a failure for it too. This is why the UN is so adamant about mothers having skilled counseling to help them through these issues.
Myth 4: Your baby may dehydrate in the first few days of birth because it’s just colostrum you’re producing.
This is one of the ugliest myths out there–if you only nurse the first few days of your baby’s birth, you may be starving or keeping them from hydration because the colostrum doesn’t nourish or hydrate enough. Whatever. Colostrum is rich in Vitmains A and K and is supremely nutritious. It’s kind of like giving your baby her boosters of immunity right after she’s born and she will do fine. If you’re *that* worried, keep track of wet diapers and talk with your lactation consultant. As an added, important fact–your baby does NOT need additional water on really hot days. Your breastmilk really is all she needs.
Myth 5: Formula is the same as breast milk.
Before we go further, we want you to know that if you are formula feeding, there is no doubt that you are feeding your child and your baby is growing. Please know that we totally understand you are doing the very best you can.
But the honest truth is that most modern formulas are similar to breastmilk at best. The reality is that breast milk is so unique in composition, it’s not really known exactly what breast milk totally is. Formula doesn’t have any living cells. No human enzymes. No hormones or human antibodies. The proteins and fats in formula are different than those in breastmilk, and formula won’t change from the beginning of your baby’s feeding session to the end or from woman to woman specifically made for her baby. Yes, again, formula will feed your child, and most likely, if a good one, in a nourishing way. But it is not breastmilk, and there is more to breastfeeding than just feeding your baby.
We again believe fed is best, and advocate for each mama doing what is best for her baby. But we also know the lobbying and marketing from formula and baby food companies can be hardcore, and it’s important you have myths debunked.