When we breastfeed a child, sometimes it can start to feel like we know it all but even the most perfect of moms is still hit with some surprises from time to time.
When I weaned my son after nearly three years of breastfeeding him, I went through a very dark time. It was only recently that I learned weaning can actually cause crippling depression. This was helpful to read, but came a little late given I had weaned a year before.
This was the kind of thing that might have been helpful to know before. With this in mind, The Stir talked exclusively to three breastfeeding experts around the county to pull 8 surprising things about breastfeeding many new moms don't know. Maybe some of this won't be news to you, but it might be the reason someone else gets over a major hurdle. Here they are:
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of uterine cancer: Sara Chana Silverstein, a homeopath, herbalist and breastfeeding expert in New York says: "One of the theories is that while nursing, many women do not menstruate reducing the rise and fall in estrogen levels. It is believed that with the reduced amount of estrogen there is less stimulation to the lining of the uterus perhaps lessening the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous." If there were not a million reasons to breastfeed before, there are now!
- Some women simply can't breastfeed: It is not common, says Silverstein. It was once assumed that around one percent of the population is said to have insufficient glandular tissue, but Silverstein says the rate at which she sees it in her office makes her question that number. "Some women with thyroid issues will also have trouble producing enough milk," Silverstein says.
- Breast pumps are not the same as nursing: "Breast pumps do not stimulate the breast to make as much milk as a baby sucking on the breast does," says Camilla Bicknell, RNC,WHNP and co-author of The Pregnancy Power Workbook. For many moms, pumping can be a powerful supplement, but pumping into bottles is not meant to be the sole means of production and will not keep a baby as well-fed as direct feeding.
- Sex may suffer during breastfeeding: When a woman is lactating, her estrogen hormone levels are very low. "This low estrogen level causes a few discomforts, the most noticeable, is dryer skin, dryer mouth, dryer eyes, and...sadly a dryer vagina, Bicknell says. This may mean women need lubricants to really enjoy sex. There is no shame in that.
- Latch is key: The grand majority of breastfeeding issues come from an improper latch. This leads moms to become frustrated and give up, Bicknell says.
- Women who choose not to breastfeed have reasons: Contrary to popular opinion, most women don't choose not to breastfeed because they don't care about their babies. They do so for a variety of reasons. Deedee Franke RN ,BSN, IBCLC and board certified lactation consultant says: "[They may have a] lack of support from a partner/family/friends, they may be returning to work or have a poor working environment. The father may want to feed the baby, they may have a history of sexual abuse, history of breastfeeding problems with a previous child, or medical problems. They could also just not being comfortable with their breasts, modesty, or stress." In other words, there are any number of reasons a mom might not choose to nurse and it is not for us to judge or make her feel bad.
- Breastfeeding does not come easily: For most, breastfeeding is something that takes time and effort and practice. "I often tell new moms that breastfeeding is like the TV show Dancing with The Stars. You have two people learning the dance of breastfeeding. It takes a lot of practice and falls before the couple masters it," Franke says. So it is key for new moms not to give up or become quickly discouraged when something so "natural" is actually much harder than it looks.
- Many women become hurt by judgement over breastfeeding: There is no doubt that many people have strong opinions when it comes to breastfeeding. Franke says she has seen many new moms get judged (and judge) over a variety of issues. But after 20 years of experience, she says it is unproductive and, ultimately, quite hurtful. "I have witnessed women who have worked very hard and still are unsuccessful with breastfeeding. Mothering your baby is a long journey and no one has the right to be judgmental," Franke says.
The fact is, breastfeeding is just not as simple as put the boob in the kid's mouth and be done. The woman's body is a complex structure full of hormones and emotions and so many other working parts.
Nursing is only one part of the whole process of childbearing, but it is an amazing one.
Did you have trouble with any of these things?
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