August 1-7 was breastfeeding week, and now that Scout is almost 11 months, I thought it would also be an appropriate time to share what I’ve learnt about breastfeeding over these past 5 years. I struggled breastfeeding my boys, so I like to think that I’ve maintained a balanced opinion of breastfeeding, and really feel like, as with so many things, that some breastfeeding advocates can be so nazi about it and only tout the good parts and glossing over the tough parts. And after reading a hilarious piece by the mother who was featured
on the cover of Time magazine breastfeeding her 3-year old son, it inspired me to pen down my own thoughts and experiences. So here are some of the myths busted (by my own research).
1. It won’t hurt if you’re doing it correctly.
Oh boy will it hurt. Probably more for some than others, but for every mum who tells you it won’t hurt, there are 10 more who will say it hurt like h*ll. Actually, I don’t
know (but then I haven’t asked all) any mother who says breastfeeding came so naturally and without pain. And yes, it will/might hurt everytime for each child, at least in the beginning. For Mittens I thought I was not doing it properly because it hurt and I was told it wouldn’t. So I took to the pump, which on hindsight, isn’t the best way to establish your supply, or latching routine, so he was partially breastfed till I stopped at around 6 months.
2. Breastfed children are smarter.
There have been many “studies” done, and this one just out this week clearly says that there is “an association, but not a cause and effect” that breastfed children are smarter. What would be interesting though, would be if any of the studies have distinguished between breastfeeding by latching, breastfeeding by bottle, and formula feeding, because then that would be a better indicator whether it’s the milk, or the act of nursing that lead to smarter children. Babies’ brains thrive on touch, a sense of security, (and like a zillion other factors!), so perhaps it’s the act of nursing that enables them to be “smarter”. Until more research is done, please do not worry that your child is going to drop a few points in IQ just because you didn’t breastfeed.
3. Breastfed children are healthier.
I know of examples of children whose mothers have abundance of milk, and yet are sick every month. There are so many factors that influence a child’s health, don’t let it stress you about milk. Gentle reminder: it’s good to continue taking supplements so that you can pass on the good stuff to the bubs.
4. Formula is bad.
Smoking is bad. Drugs are bad. I am totally open to having a small tin of formula as backup (and would advise it to any new mother) as a backup in the early days before milk comes in, and/or in case the supply isn’t meeting the demand until it stabilises. It certainly helps to ease the stress knowing that the baby is not going to go hungry! Did you know that babies
can survive up to 2 weeks after birth without milk? But really, who would want their baby to be starved even for 1 day? It’s a buffet every day in the womb, and after birth you want him to wait 3 days for the next meal? I couldn’t bear to do that! I will say this though, breastmilk is definitely cheaper than formula, which can cost an arm and a leg these days!
5. Every mother will have enough milk
When Scout was around 7 months, she started to get really fussy all the time and wanted to nurse every 1-2 hours. After a few days I figured it was time to break out the tin, and she’s been happily on both breast and formula since, which I really think is actually the best of both worlds, especially now that she’s (happily) on solids. I don’t have to worry too much about supply, quality, etc., and if I’m out someone else can feed her formula.
So even after latching directly for over 7 months, there seemed to be a limit to the amount I could produce. If that isn’t evidence that some mothers really do not have enough milk, I don’t know what is. Still, it didn’t stop me from trying my darnest. If you do need help increasing supply, galactagogues like drugs like Domperidone, herbals like Fenugreek, or herbal tea might or might not work for everyone. I found Domperidone useless, but Mother’s Milk tea strangely useful in increasing the supply slightly within the next few hours of consumption. Plus it was pretty pleasant to drink.
6. I want to know how much baby is drinking.
When you’re hungry, you eat. When you’re full, you stop. Some days you eat more than others, right? Babies are the same and even more primal in that way because in the first few months they only feed. If they look healthy, they’re fine. There’s no need to know how much they’re getting at each feed. I don’t judge but I wish I could persuade every new mother who just has to know how much the baby is drinking to stop worrying. Because once you get too used to the pump it’s a slippery slope down and I’ve been down that slope before.
7. You can’t take any caffeine or alcohol when nursing.
I have heard of a pregnant woman who would not kiss her husband after he had rinsed his mouth with Listerine. And another in a restaurant who refused a dish in which a little alcohol had been used in the cooking. Being too uptight would probably do the baby less good than a little caffeine/alcohol in moderation. Anything in moderation does not harm the fetus/baby (click for links supporting the facts), and I definitely wouldn’t mind if it made baby a little more sleepy 😉
8. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight.
I call bull**** on this one.
Oh, and if you do find some joy in nursing, just a little word of advice – please invest in a nursing shawl or nursing clothes. It’s awkward when mothers expose themselves to all and sundry.