Friday, August 03, 2007

World Breastfeeding Week 2007: Myths

I think many times people don’t breastfeed, or don’t breastfeed successfully, simply because of misinformation. I’ve heard many breastfeeding myths in my short mothering career.

Once, several years ago, a mother of two teenagers told me wistfully, “I wanted so much to breastfeed my children, but I didn’t make enough milk. Everything went fine till they were three weeks old, and then they wanted to eat every hour and a half.” She so obviously still bore the disappointment of her failure that I didn’t feel it would serve any purpose to tell her that her experience was completely normal and that she almost surely could have breastfed successfully. Babies go through a growth spurt around three weeks which causes them to eat more often to increase mama’s milk supply. Furthermore, some babies need to eat every hour and a half even when they are not on a growth spurt. Babies have different sized tummies and different eating personalities. One of mine was a “grazer” who nursed every hour for the first 6 months of life. It didn’t mean I wasn’t making enough milk.

Other mothers have told me similar stories…They wanted to breastfeed but they didn’t make enough milk, or their milk was “bad”. These stories were always told as though it’s common, even normal, for a mother to not be able to breastfeed. Certainly there are cases where a woman isn’t able to breastfeed, but those cases are by far the exception, with proper information and help.

Some of the worst myths I’ve heard have been from people in the medical profession. When Billy was in the hospital with emergency surgery and I had a 4-month-old who had never taken a bottle, a nurse told me this: “Be careful or your milk will sour.” WHAT? Sure, stress can cause your supply to suffer, but sour milk…no (and yuck!). How sad that a medical professional wasn’t able to offer more constructive—or accurate--advice than that.

At Silas’ two week checkup, the pediatrician saw his excellent weight gain and said, “Oh, that’s good. I always worry about these breastfed babies So often they won’t gain weight.” I just looked at him in disbelief. This was a pediatrician? What in the world would cause him to make such a statement? Was his practice dominated by Ezzo followers or something? How could any well-informed person, especially a doctor, contend that many or most breastfed babies cannot gain weight? That ignorant statement cost him our business. We never went back.

So there are a few breastfeeding myths I’ve heard. It makes me sad, because breastfeeding is so beneficial for both mom and baby on so many levels. It’s unfortunate that such misinformation is so freely circulated, and that so many moms don’t believe they can breastfeed based on this kind of faulty advice.

What breastfeeding myths have you heard?

And a bonus: Last year's WBW posts:

My Story

Breastfeeding is Good for Moms

Breastfeeding is Good for Babies

Good for Moms, Again

Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing


Hannah's Mom said...

Breastfeeding and a Good Pedatrician... Oh I remember those days. It was fabulous!!! :) It saddens me as well to see that our medical professionals (a lot of them) don't get it. In fact, they don't "get" a lot. Oh well, that is a different post all together. hehehehe

Jen said...

My sister-in-law decided to stop breast feeding my three week old niece because "she wasn't able to digest breast milk as well as formula." I was flabbergasted! I actually couldn't think of a response, especially when she said her pediatrician agreed with her! What has happened that the easy way is the the best way? Who ever promised that children would be easy?!