Guest post by Cheyenne Bell of Girl v. The World
When I was pregnant with my first child I knew that I was going to breastfeed, and hopefully do it for a long time. I had no qualms about it; I thought it would be natural, easy, a wonderful bonding experience…you know, all those things you hear about breastfeeding.
You can imagine, then, my surprise and disappointment when breastfeeding didn’t go as smoothly as I had anticipated.
In fact, there was nothing smooth or easy about my breastfeeding experience with my first baby and I have since learned that not many women have it “easy” when it comes to nursing.
Don’t get me wrong; I am a HUGE proponent of breastfeeding. I believe in it and support it 110%. I nursed my daughter for 16 months and I plan on nursing my 8 month old son as long as he’s interested. However, after the struggle I had breastfeeding my daughter (my son has been easier since I had encountered many of the issues with his sister), I know how important it is to share the truth with other moms so they can be prepared.
Here, I want to debunk some of the most common myths you may have heard about breastfeeding and shed some light (perhaps also offer some hope?) for other mamas out there.
1. Breastfeeding is easy.
More often than not, breastfeeding is far from easy. There are so, SO many things that can complicate a breastfeeding relationship: lip and tongue ties, oversupply, low supply, food intolerances, nipple confusion…the list could go on.
Both of my kids had severe lip and tongue ties which caused a bad latch which caused cracked and bleeding nipples that caused severe, toe-curling pain each and every time they nursed.
Both of my kids have an intolerance for dairy so I have had to give it up each time I’ve had a baby (for a girl who loves cheese, I can’t tell you how hard it was).
To add insult to injury, I have oversupply issues. Needless to say, my breastfeeding journey has been anything but easy.
The more I talk to other moms, I find I’m not the only one who has had a rough time.
The good news is, there is almost always a way to work around these issues so that you can have a better, easier breastfeeding relationship.
For example, we had my son’s lip and tongue tie revised when he was 7 days old and since then nursing has truly been a breeze. No more pain, no more bad latch issues. He nurses like a champ and our nursing relationship is beautiful.
So while breastfeeding may not be easy from the beginning, it can and does get better.
A wonderful resource that discusses just about everything you’ll ever need to know about breastfeeding and its nuances is an amazing website called KellyMom. Believe me, you’ll want to bookmark this website!
(Beth’s note: that’s totally my fave site for breastfeeding advice, too! Fantastic resource.)
2. Breastfeeding is normal.
Technically, yes, breastfeeding is the way God intended for a mother to nourish her child. Breastfeeding should be seen by mothers and the world and a natural, normal act.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, a mother feeding her child is often seen by others as lewd, gross or as an obscene display of nudity. Ridiculous as it sounds, mothers all over the country are lectured, chastised, given the evil eye, even kicked out of establishments for doing nothing more than feeding her child.
This type of behavior has given moms the (untrue and unfair) idea that there is something wrong or shameful about breastfeeding, especially in public.
Hear me, mamas, when I tell you: THERE IS NOTHING SHAMEFUL ABOUT FEEDING YOUR CHILD IN PUBLIC.
You have the RIGHT to feed your baby when and where you see fit. Whether you use a cover or not, nourishing your baby is top priority…don’t let anyone shame you from doing what you need to do.
3. Breastfeeding always fills you with feelings of bliss and joy.
In most cases, I hope this is true. Unfortunately, in my case, breastfeeding actually caused a little known condition called D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex) in which nursing actually causes negative emotions that occur right before milk release and continue for several minutes. I wrote at length about my experience with D-MER here.
While D-MER does not affect most women (thank goodness), there may be other less joyful emotions that accompany nursing, especially in the early days.
Worry, frustration, fear, guilt for feeling tired or resentful that your baby is wanting to nurse for the billionth time, etc. –-all are normal feelings.
Don’t let these temporary feelings deter you from continuing to breastfeed your little one! As you progress in your nursing relationship and as your baby gets older, it is highly likely that these feelings will subside and you will feel bliss, joy, awe and wonder in those quiet moments while you’re feeding your precious baby.
4. Breastfeeding is best for your baby.
Nutritionally speaking, breastmilk is absolutely the best thing you can feed your baby. Despite their claims to the contrary, formula is not and can never be just as good for your baby as breastmilk. I don’t think anyone can really deny that.
That being said, there are many moms out there who, for whatever reason, cannot or choose not to breastfeed. AND THAT IS OKAY, MAMA.
The bottom line when it comes to caring for your precious child is that you are making conscious effort to do what you believe is best for your child.
If that includes supplementing with formula, or exclusively feeding with formula, then that is what is best for your child. Period. The end. Do not let anyone tell you differently.
5. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight.
Nope. As much as I want this myth to be true, sadly, it is not. I can’t tell you how many moms I’ve talked to that have had a hard time losing weight while breastfeeding.
In fact, they often tell me that they only lost those last stubborn pounds after they stopped nursing. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense.
Your body is providing nourishment for another human being, as well as providing you, the nursing mom, with the energy you need to survive.
It’s no wonder that your body is going to hold onto fat (a.k.a. energy) like it’s going out of style.
Personally, I found that it was easier to shed the post-baby pounds after my first baby than it has been since my son was born 8 months ago. I’m even working out more vigorously now than I did after baby girl was born.
Alas, my body is not giving up it’s extra stores of energy very easily and it’s taking much longer for me to get back into shape this time around. I have to continually remind myself that this is a marathon and not a sprint and re-focus my efforts on being healthy and fit.
While breastfeeding can certainly be a challenge, it is nevertheless a wonderful, special bonding experience that only you as a mom can have with your child.
Despite the challenges that I faced first with my daughter and now with my son, I am so glad that we fought through, found solutions and continued our nursing relationship.
It is a priceless experience, and the benefits to my kids far outweigh the temporary struggles I faced.
I encourage you, mamas, to give breastfeeding your best effort and to seek help from certified lactation consultants if you run into any issues at all. Happy nursing!
Do you have any other breastfeeding tips or myths to debunk?
Cheyenne, a photographer and SAHM, resides with her amazing hubby, two crazy kiddos, a Border Collie and two evil cats in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Besides photography, her greatest passions include lots of coffee, autumn, flea markets, vintage finds, old books and red wine. When she’s not wrangling babies or shooting them (with her camera, of course) you can find her over at her blog, Girl v. The World, where she writes about everything from DIY, decor, motherhood, and healthy living, to the occasional product review or giveaway of things she loves.