Breastfeeding can be intimidating for new moms due to worries about milk supply, the logistics of returning to work, dubious reactions from older relatives, etc.
But health and bonding benefits for mom and baby making breastfeeding worth the effort, says Sharonda Taylor, RN, lactation specialist at Regional One Health. Taylor and her colleagues support patients via a free breastfeeding class, inpatient training after women give birth, and follow-up outpatient phone calls and appointment availability.
In her six years working with new moms at Regional One Health, Taylor has seen big strides in how many women try breastfeeding – and heard about every reason in the book they don’t. Here, she addresses nine common breastfeeding myths.
1. Formula is so much easier
Are you sure? With breastfeeding, Taylor noted, there are no bottles to prepare, wash and sanitize. Moms don’t have to worry about packing formula to go out: “It’s so convenient; just take out your breast and offer it to your baby,” she said.
Women can pump so other caregivers can handle some feedings, she said, and it’s OK to mix formula and breastmilk once a good supply is established.
Finally, “It’s free!” Taylor said. “You don’t have to go out and buy anything.”
2. My baby will starve
It takes way less than you think to satisfy a newborn – a feeding between 7-10 ml is plenty: “I tell moms a new baby’s stomach is very small, about the size of a cherry. It doesn’t take much to fill it up,” Taylor said.
As a baby’s appetite increases, their greater demand naturally stimulates the mother’s supply.
3. I’ll spoil my baby
Breastfeeding does mean moms spend a lot of time with their babies – but Taylor said there’s no downside to that.
“Some of our patients think the baby is going to get spoiled and need to be held all the time. But babies should be held – they need to feel safe, and it makes them better adults because they learn right away to have a connection with another human being,” she said.
4. My breasts will sag or become lopsided
Perhaps. But as Taylor points out, gravity is going to get you anyway.
“Look, when you’re older and you’ve had a baby, your breasts are going to change, period,” she said. “It’s going to happen regardless. My best is advice is to get a really good bra!”
5. It will hurt
Not with a proper latch. Taylor said moms who hear horror stories are often listening to someone who didn’t work with a lactation consultant.
Once a consultant helps a mom get a proper latch, there might be some tenderness, but that goes away quickly. There are products to help, Taylor added, or, “You can just squeeze a little of your breastmilk onto your nipple to help with healing.”
6. My breasts aren’t built for it
First of all, Taylor stressed, “Breasts are meant for babies, and any size breast can breastfeed.”
Nipple shields can help with inverted nipples, she added. Some moms use them the whole time; others find they correct the issue and aren’t necessary anymore.
7. My mom or (gulp) mother-in-law will judge me
“I’ve had to win over a lot of grandmothers,” Taylor laughed, noting nursing wasn’t the norm a generation ago. “I tell moms I had the same feeling, but I became a nurse and got educated, and I said, ‘I want to do this.’ I also tell the moms that it’s their baby and their decision.”
One piece of good news, she said, is more women are getting support from their partner – a lot of dads are advocating for breastfeeding these days.
8. I can’t nurse in public
First of all, no mom should ever feel ashamed for feeding her baby, Taylor said.
Still, some unease is understandable – but women do have options. There are a lot of cover-ups on the market, and with a little practice you can nurse and no one will even know.
Also, she said, society is catching up and offering more designated nursing areas in public places like airports, malls, etc. Many public restrooms have a separate sitting area for breastfeeding.
9. I can’t keep it up when I go back to work
For one thing, Taylor said, while experts recommend six months of breastfeeding, any amount is beneficial – even if moms just do it while they’re in the hospital.
Also, she stressed, “You can breastfeed at work. That’s the law in Tennessee. They have to give you a break to pump for your baby.”
Taylor said her team’s goal at Regional One Health is to give women the knowledge and support they need to give breastfeeding a try. They connect patients with support groups, a state hotline and more, and are available for appointments and questions.