While 25 percent of American women never initiate breastfeeding, another 75 percent do, and yet by 6 months, only 13 percent of babies are still breastfed, despite the fact that the recommendation is that all babies be exclusively breastfed until at least that age. What goes wrong in such a short period of time in our country?
Some is just a choice by Mom, but most commonly, it's a combination of poor support combined with bad information: difficult obstacles for anyone to overcome to accomplish anything, really. I talked about five breastfeeding myths in the past, and this time I've got five more myths about breastfeeding that stand in the way of successful nursing relationships.
Myth 1: Jaundiced newborns need to be supplemented with formula to lower bilirubin levels.
This is one of the most common reasons that newborns are given formula -- the doctor sees elevated bilirubin levels (common in half of babies!) and says the mother needs to supplement formula, as breastfeeding "raises the levels," or because it's lasted longer than a week. The jaundice level (a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells) is removed from the body via the liver, so a baby needs to poop to lower the levels. As breastfed babies poop more frequently, their levels actually drop quicker, but it can take 5-10 days in a full-term infant for the liver to develop a little more to properly excrete the blood-cell byproduct. The biggest factor in breastfed babies having jaundice is actually poor breastfeeding initiation -- in order to poop it out, they have to have good intake. Hospitals that promote immediate, on-demand, frequent breastfeeding and provide lactation consultants have much less problem-babies with jaundice, and in a situation where a well-fed infant still has worrisome levels, very frequent breastfeeding in addition to bilirubin lights is the most effective combination -- no formula necessary.
Myth 2: A mother who needs to undergo anesthesia for surgery must temporarily/permanently stop breastfeeding.
Plenty a mom has said she needed to stop/pause nursing due to anesthesia, but once you are awake enough to hold and nurse your baby, the level of anesthesia in your body is little enough that it no longer has an effect. Not to mention that in cases of surgery on a pediatric patient, they receive way more anesthesia medication than is in your milk. Also, there's a huge list of acceptable antibiotics and good pain killers for you post-surgery that are totally acceptable while nursing -- no need to wean at all.
Myth 3: If you can't pump an ounce in a day, that's a good sign that you don't have enough milk.
Heard the saying, "A pump is not an indication of your supply"? If not, now you have. Your baby is much better at getting milk out than a pump. Considering breast shape and size vary so much, it's common that women have issues with pumps without more custom pieces and then think that because they don't yield 6 ounces, that their body isn't making milk. Not true! In fact, your baby could be eating 30 ounces a day from your body, but you might only be able to pump half an ounce, even if you try all day long. It is normal for it to take 2-3 pumping sessions to produce enough milk for just one feeding. Never assume that the pump tells you anything about your supply. The only indication of supply is baby's behavior and output. If baby is peeing and pooping enough, you're making enough.
Myth 4: A newborn who hasn't regained their birth weight by two weeks old needs supplementation.
IV fluids during your birth can give an artificially high initial birth weight, since baby is filled with saline, too. That is why weight gain after birth should be counted from the lowest weight after birth. Do NOT measure from the weight at birth. Up to a 10 percent initial drop is acceptable, and it generally takes 10-14 days to regain that weight, but can take three weeks or sometimes even more. As long as baby is still pooping and peeing at appropriate levels, generally it can be safe to assume your child is just intended to weigh less or is taking longer to gain. Four to 7 ounces per week is a wide accepted range for gain in the first month.
Myth 5: A baby who nurses frequently is doing so because there isn't enough milk to satiate them.
Eight to 12 nursing sessions in one day sounds like a lot, right? Every two hours, from start of one feeding to the next? You can nurse for 15-45 minutes, so sometimes with a newborn, you are going to almost literally be nursing them for a few hours straight. Learn how to nurse while walking and holding the baby with one arm, or even put the baby in a wrap so you can nurse and walk, hands-free. But never think that a baby who nurses 12 times or is hungry every hour isn't getting enough breast milk -- check the output!
What do you think about these myths? Which myths do you hear often?
Image via Jamelyn777/CafeMom