Next week will be 17 months of breastfeeding for E and I. You don't make it this 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 as "support" from a well meaning individual, but they can easily deter a new mom who has just started breastfeeding. It's important for breastfeeding moms and professionals to watch what they say. While it isn't all sunshine and puppy dogs, there are many myths that get passed along as fact.
- Here are my top four doozies.
- "Nursing in public is illegal" or "Women can nurse in public, but they have to do it covered/discrete or else it's obscene." Oh lawd. I think we all know how I feel about NIP. First of all, 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.
As far as it being done covered/discrete, it is all so subjective. What I think discrete may not be discrete to you. IMO, hearing these words coming from another breastfeeding mom is the worst kind of unsupport a mom can get. Why not let the mom feed her baby without any dirty looks or comments? I'm sure all she wants to do is feed her baby and move on with her day, not make some kind of huge political statement. Unless she's a part of a flash mob - then all bets are off.
- "It's supposed to hurt." or "Breastfeeding is natural, you shouldn't have to ask for help." Uh, it's not supposed to hurt. It's going to feel uncomfortable, but it shouldn't hurt. If it hurts, ask for help! There are plenty of well trained, supportive lactation consultants that can solve the problem quickly.
As far as it being natural, yes it is one of the most natural things out there. 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 nursing after 6 weeks/6 months/1 year." There is a lot of research to refute this awful myth. Plenty of health organizations (WHO, CDC, AAP) recommend that a baby receives breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months of life. The AAP and WHO recommend breastfeeding for 12 months or beyond, as long as it is desired by both mom and baby. A new study just came out saying that breastfeeding is associated with a healthy infant gut. There are plenty of benefits to nursing past a year that go beyond nutritional benefits. Kellymom has a great list, as does this post on Light Party.
- "Formula is failure." Many moms have to supplement while their milk supply regulates. Others may exclusively BF for the weeks they are at home, but are forced to add formula because they don't respond well to a pump after returning to work. Others may have to stop because their milk supply drops for some reason (illness, stress, medication), and just won't return.
It's this "formula is failure" thinking by many women who consider themselves to pro breastfeeding or lactivists that make give the rest of us a bad name. I (obviously) consider myself to be a lactivist, but have never and would never judge a mom for using formula. I don't know her story. What I do want to do is support moms who breastfeed. See this post by the Analytical Armadillo for what I think a lactivist is and isn't.
Motherhood is hard enough, do we really need to do this shit to ourselves and each other? As I am learning in my class, the first rule of breastfeeding is you did the best you could with the information you had.
- Honorable mentions:
- Breastfeeding makes your boobs sag
- Moms can't produce enough milk for big newborns and/or twins
- Women with small breasts/big breasts/implants can't breastfeed
- Moms can't provide breastmilk when they go back to work.
What are your "favorite" breastfeeding myths?