Welcoming a new baby is one of the most joyous moments in life, but choosing the best way to feed a little one can be challenging. A lactation consultant can be a helpful ally in the process.
In working with new parents at Oviedo Medical Center, I often address misconceptions about breastfeeding. Here are a few of the most common:
MYTH: Breastfeeding is always best.
FACT: Breastfeeding isn’t possible or ideal for every mom.
Experts believe that breast milk is the best nutritional choice, because it contains many of the vitamins and minerals that newborns need, and it’s uniquely formulated by each mother for her baby. As a result, breastfed babies typically have stronger digestive and immune systems.
Moms also reap the benefits, since breastfeeding burns calories and helps shrink the uterus. Studies have found that nursing lowers the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and may help reduce the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
Biologically speaking, nearly every mom can breastfeed, no matter her breast shape or size. That said, there are some risk factors that can impact a mom’s glandular tissue and hormones, including previous fertility issues, polycystic ovarian syndrome and breast surgery (particularly a reduction). If a mom has had no changes in her breasts during pregnancy, we’ll want to monitor her closely and make sure she consults with an expert before delivery to avoid any challenges.
Bottom line: Moms need to decide what’s best based on their family’s specific circumstances.
MYTH: If I don’t breastfeed, I won’t bond with my baby.
FACT: Loving mothers will always create a special bond with their children.
Whether nutrients come from a bottle or a breast, feeding is an excellent time to strengthen that connection.
MYTH: Breastfeeding is natural, so it should always be easy.
FACT: Like many aspects of parenting, breastfeeding has a learning curve.
Many moms benefit from a hospital-based consultant who can help them with positioning, latching and feeding. Getting a good latch is critical, since a bad one can cause breast soreness, mastitis, poor milk transfer into baby’s mouth and even colic. An expert can also identify physical conditions, like oral motor issues or a tongue-tie, that require interventions.
MYTH: If I breastfeed, I have to give up everything I like.
FACT: You can eat and drink what you want, within moderation.
Moms can make their breastfeeding experience what they want it to be. Rather than worrying about avoiding certain foods, it’s important to stay hydrated and focus on the fundamentals of positioning and latching.
MYTH: I must breastfeed until my child is two years old.
FACT: You can take it one day at a time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then initiating solid foods and then continuing breastfeeding through the first year.
That said, you may want to breastfeed for a shorter or longer period, and that’s fine — as long as baby is growing and thriving.
MYTH: Pumping is expensive.
FACT: Your insurance will likely cover the cost.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most providers (including Medicaid) give moms free a double electric breast pump with a doctor’s prescription. Moms planning to pump should establish a routine a couple of weeks before returning to work to ensure they have enough milk and that their babies will take a bottle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until breastfeeding has been well established before pumping. Moms who need to start pumping sooner than 4-6 weeks after birth should talk with an expert about how to handle the transition.
MYTH: I’m all on my own.
FACT: Having a good support team is important.
There are many resources to help families — whether it’s using a feeding tube from a mom’s breast into baby’s mouth or receiving donor milk from a local milk bank. Sometimes, we can even help adoptive moms, or those who use surrogacy, to lactate.
Oviedo Medical Center offers free prenatal classes, including a breastfeeding course. In addition, we provide outpatient lactation visits, which are usually covered by insurance. The La Leche League and several social media-based groups also offer camaraderie and support.
No matter how they nourish their babies, moms should feel confident and supported in their choice.
Kristen Sorondo is a lactation consultant at Oviedo Medical Center.
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