Breastfeeding Myths

Indiana Black Breastfeeding Coalition as part of Landscape of Breastfeeding Support, photography by Anne Schollenberger Photography

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I wanted to get this post up before National Breastfeeding Month is over. It’s taken me longer than I thought it would and it’s not a perfect or complete list of myths, but a good starting point.

World Breastfeding Week was August 1-7th and even though that week is long gone people still celebrate breastfeeding the entire month. I had made a simple status update on Facebook a few weeks ago “Writing about Breastfeeding Myths.” Within minutes I had a long list from other women of some things they’ve heard or been told about breastfeeding. I’m combining their statements with my own.

Black Women Don’t Breastfeed.

This is one of the most common myths circulating around the world. I’m a Black Woman and have breastfed all three of my children for varying lengths of time. I have Black friend who breastfeed or have breastfed their babies. There are Black celebrities that Breastfeed. Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Laila Ali, Erykah Badu,and Nia Long to name a few. Black Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time and we will continue to do so. Here is a post from Free To Breastfeed:Voices From Black Mothers reporting on Black Women from all walks of life that Breastfeed. There is also Black Women Do Breastfeed, Blacktating, Black Breastfeeding 360, Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association.

Breastfeeding Comes Naturally For Mom and Baby.

It is true that breasts were meant for breastfeeding and that moms milk is made specefically for her baby. It is also true that baby’s are born to breastfeed. What is not true is that breastfeeding will come naturally or easy for every mom and baby. I like to think of breastfeeding as a dance between mom and baby…something the two of them learn together.

I had no problems breastfeeding my first two children, but my third was a very humbling experience. While he did breastfeed minutes after birth, I started noticing problems a few weeks in. I’ve always had an oversupply of milk and he would gag and choke when nursing. He had developed a bad latch and my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I wanted too give up so many times. Thankfully I had a supportive group of friends along with my local La Leche League. She helped me to try reclining back when nursing, and that helped with gravity so the baby wasn’t choking from my super fast flow of milk. For the latch issues we were having, I would use pillows to keep him level with my breast, or lie on my back with the baby directly on top of me nursing.

La Leche League leaders can make house and hospital calls. You can ask for help over the phone or through email. The best part of the organization? You can attend meetings before your baby is even born! There are many reasons a mom and baby may have a rough start to breastfeeding. They could have been separated after birh for whatever reason, latch issues,  reflux, thrush, colic, cesarean, over supply, low supply. A supportive network of friends, family, lactation consultants, and La Leche League Leaders can help you and your baby learn to breastfeed.

Babies Should Be On A Feeding Schedule.

From Melissa ” My favorite- Nursing on demand or using nursing to soothe your baby will make the baby fat.  Actually said to me by a Pediatrician”

Breastfed babies need to feed on demand. Newborns will frequently breastfeed every hour or more because they are building up their milk supply. Breastfeeding is supply and demand. The more baby breastfeeds the more milk your body will make. A Breastfed baby will also nurse more often because breastmilk digests more quickly than formula. This is a really good thing! Every single time you nurse your baby, your body releases the love hormone Oxytocin. Sending love, and calm throughout you and your baby. What an amamzing bonding experience!

You Only Need To Breastfeed For The First 3-6 Months.

From Faith “I love that some people actually believe that a child will NEVER wean unless you stop them. The thought of my 15 year old still wanting to nurse is hilarious.”

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. And after those six months introducing solids while still breastfeeding for up to two years of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and then for one full year or longer. Breastfeeding beyond infancy has many health benefits. Kellymom has excellent resources on all of the benefits. I breastfed my 1stt for 10 months, my 2nd for 29 months, and my third is almost 27 months and still nursing. Many women here in America and around the world nurse their children for at least three years. It’s completely normal!

Breastfeeding Will Spoil Your Baby.

Food spoils, not your baby. You carried that baby and all he/she knows is the sound of your heartbeat, your voice. When a baby is born they need to be held and nursed frequently. They feel safest in the arms of their mother. Every time you nurse your baby there is a physical and mental bond that takes place. Your baby has a biological need to want to be with you and Mother and baby are designed to be together, especially in those first few weeks and months. The two of you are learning each other. There is nothing wrong with that.

Breastfeeding Should Only Be Done In Private.

There are so many great things about breastfeeding. It’s free, always ready and warm. In the event of a natural disaster there are no bottles, water and formula to worry about, so you would never have to worry about your baby going hungry. It is your legal right to breastfeed your baby in public. At first I was terrified to nurse in public. I felt like it was a shameful thing to do. It was growing up in church, and worrying about being modest at all times. I knew women in church breastfed, but never actually saw them because they would sit huddle up, backed-turn, blanketed up. My oldest is now seven years old, and I will never forget one of the first times I needed to nurse her in public. I felt ashamed to nurse her at the table when we were out to eat with our church group. There were men at the table afterall, and we were in public! Christians are supposed to be modest. You can read about What The Bible Says About Nursing In Public here. I went to the bathroom and sat on the toilet to breastfeed her. It was disgusting and my food was cold when I came back. One of my friends mentioned that she felt bad for me and that was why she used formula. It is this type of thinking that makes people feel shame for nurturing their baby anytime no matter where they are, or who they are with. Another time my daughte rwas about 4 months old I had a meeting in the mall with a woman to talk about a work from home job. My daughter started to fuss and I was so nervous, I tried bouncing her to soothe her, but that wasn’t working. The woman looked at me and said “if you need to nurse your baby, go right ahead” I felt such relief! That was all it took for me to feel comfortable, and empowered even to nurse my baby right there in the malls food court.

With my second daughter I had no trouble nursing her in public. No one knew what I was doing unless they were starring at us. I’ve nursed in the mall, at church, on the beach, at the park, the library, the zoo, and even in the store while grocery shopping. There are many baby carriers on the market now that allow you to wear your baby and carry on with your life, hands free. It’s pretty easy to wear your baby and nurse at the same time.
Now when I notice a mom nursing in public I’ll either catch her eye and smile or walk up to her and let her know that she’s doing a great thing. Breastfeeding in public is simply meeting the needs of your child.

Men Are Not Supportive of Breastfeeding

This is definitely NOT TRUE! My husband has been supportive of breastfeeding from the beginning. I know of many men that support their wives breastfeeding.

A little back story…
I supplemented with formula for about 6-8 months with my first daughter and she nursed for ten months. When I had my 2nd daughter and went past the year mark, my aunt told me she was proud of me. She didn’t have the information back then that I have now. I know my mom wasn’t used to it. She asked with my 2nd daughter and again with my son(my 3rd)when I was going to stop. I talk to my dad all the time about all the benefits. Because to them, it wasn’t normal.

My husband has been great. He didn’t know much about it at the time, but he said that he always knew he wanted his wife to breastfeed his children. But it was a big deal to him for me to nurse without covering up. He was worried that people would look and stare, or that some man would try to catch a glimpse of his wifes breasts. I started wearing a tank top under my clothes, that way I could nurse anywhere without a cover. I thought my husband may have problems with my son, because some people have a problem nursing boys longer rather than girls. So there were a few times where he said something like…”maybe you could wean him?” He made those statements over a year ago….our son is 27 months old now and we’re still going strong with breastfeeding and my husband is 100% on board. I love hearing him tell his friends and co-workers about breastfeeding. I love it when he notices a mom nursing in public before I do! It wouldn’t surprise me if he could offer a little breastfeeding support to families.

Some men want to be supportive but don’t know hot to be. We need to tell them exactly what will help.
Here are a few ways that men can be supportive of breastfeeding…

  • Get rid of the idea that breasts are only for your pleasure.
  • Attend breastfeeding support meetings before and after the baby is born.
  • Make sure your wife has something to drink, pillows and books, lap top or whatever she would like to do while nursing.
  • Change the diapers and bring the baby to her in bed or whereever she is sitting.
  • Ask her what you can do to help support her in breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Prevents Allergies

From Tarrah “I was told by our ex pediatrician that bc he couldn’t digest dairy that i had to stop….i was devastated then i found out i could have cut out dairy myself and he would be fine….we switched drs immediately”

I’m sure I’ll get many people to disagree with me on this one, but I’m speaking from personal experience on this one. My husband has asthma and allergies and so do I.
Ive had to eliminate dairy from my diet with all three of my children, and all three of them have asthma. If your family has a history of asthma and allergies, there is a pretty good chance your baby will also develop allergies. One of the most common is an allergy to dairy. It’s amazing to me how many in the medical field still don’t know that if a baby has an allerigc reaction to diary then mom just needs to cut it from her diet. It can take up to 6 weeks to leave moms system completely and you have to be careful with food labels because a lot of times we don’t realize how much dairy we are eating on a daily basis. Eating Without Casein is a great resource page for learning how to eat dairy free. So I do not agree that breastfeeding can prevent allergies in a family with a history of allergies.

I think these next two can go together.

No Medicine or Drinking While Breastfeeding

From Erika “The myth that a mom can’t take medication at all while nursing.”  And Patricia ” Mom can’t make enough milk.  and NO WINE!” 

Dr Hale has done research and writen many articles on the safety of medications and alcohol consuption while breastfeeding.
Many women think if they are on anti-depressants that they can’t breastfeed or need to wean. I took a low dose of Lexapro (20mg) with all three of my babies. My midwives and Dr’s were both comfortable with it. I have friends that have also used different medications and successfully breastfed their children. As far as alcohol goes….I like to have a glass of wine every now and then. Some women drink a beer – they say it helps to boost their milk supply….other than drinking for recreational purposes. Consult with your doctor first.

Every Mother Can and Should Breastfeed

From Dana K “Flipside myth – breastmilk is best for all babies. // I heard this from a very prominent lactivist who told me I shouldn’t give my son the “poison” formula. She claimed to know more about my son’s fatty acid oxidation disorder than I or my geneticists know and I just wasn’t doing everything I could for him. My son would have died had I continued nursing him. my situation taught me to be a lot more compassionate with my lactivism. (VLCADD, if anyone is wondering)”

There is a small percentage of women that can’t breastfeed. It goes way beyond nipple confusion, low milk supply, and tongue tie.
All of those issues are things that can be corrected with help. I had never heard of VLCADD ((very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency) until I met Dana. Instead of me spouting off on something I don’t know much about I’ll let her post tell you more about her son Klaw’s condition. We really need to be more sensitive to those women who so badly wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. We are so quick to judge a mom for not breastfeeding when we may not know the whole story. That doesn’t help anyone.

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There are a ton of myths floating around out there about breastfeeding. This is a small list. What are some that you’ve heard or had personal experience with?

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6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Myths

  1. Well Done, Darcel! It is so important for women to know that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Yet, with the help and guidance of an experienced lactation consultant, most women can breastfeed for as long as they wish. Additionally, thanks for dispelling the myths and frank lies surrounding black women and breastfeeding!

    • Thank you Darline! I wanted the myth that black women don’t breastfeed to be number one. We all know that isn’t true no matter how many times the media tries to tell us it is.
      Many women think if you don’t breastfeed right away that all is lost and that’s just not true.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Thank you for noting that sometimes no matter how much a mom would like to nurse, it’s just not possible and that we don’t deserve judgment or derision for that. Nice to read a pro-breastfeeding blog that isn’t vilifying the women who have to (or even choose to) use formula. Proof that lactivism doesn’t have to be militant.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Judgement gets us nowhere. Getting the information out is key….after that it’s up to the mom to decide. I do not think that a mother who chooses not to breastfeed is a terrible person, and I also think about how I would feel if I couldn’t breastfeed. Women need to support each other and stop with all the attacks.

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