Monday, December 9, 2013

4 Myths Busted

My adventure in breastfeeding started about three years ago when I started working as a night RN in the newborn nursery. There were no night shift lactation consultants at my hospital and most of the time, since company was gone for the day and things had settled down, night shift was the perfect time for first-time breastfeeding moms to ask for coaching. It was also the time that breastfeeding moms wanted to give up and get sleep. I took on the challenge, even though I had never breastfed, and instantly fell in love with lactation. During my journey of trying to conceive and pregnancy loss then finally my pregnancy with C, I was envious of all of the breastfeeding mothers. All I wanted to do was nurse my own baby and I prayed that all of the advice I gave new moms over the years was worth taking!

Working in the hospital with new moms during their first few days, I hear so many reasons why moms don't think they can nurse right away, exclusively, or at all. Here are some of the most common myths - busted.

I can't squeeze anything out so my baby isn't getting anything.

If only we could be so lucky! Most women aren't blessed with the ability to squirt milk across the room right after the cord is cut (and yes, I actually say that at the bedside because I'm awesome like that). It takes time and effort to establish supply.

Think of it as breast milk economics. Create the demand for a supply and generally it will come.

It can take 4-10 days to beef up milk supply to the point of feeling full or that milk has come in. Even after this period, it is normal to have highs and lows of production throughout the day, so don't be discouraged if you see colostrum dripping out during the first feeding and not the second or more commonly, morning and nighttime feedings.

Check out my next post for yummy recipes and ways to modify your diet to help increase supply!

My baby is in a low weight percentile so I need to supplement with formula to help him gain.

In the words of my son's pediatrician, someone has to be down there! Anywhere from the 1-99 percentiles is considered normal. If a baby is below the 1st percentile or starts dropping weight rapidly, that can be cause for concern, but some babies just gain slower than others and that's OK.

Exhibit A - My son's growth chart

He was consistently under the lowest little line but thanks to a great pediatrician, supportive family, and a hint of genetic stubbornness, we are now 9.5 months into our breastfeeding relationship without supplementing and he is now in the 31st percentile for weight and 69th for height. We are lucky to have a great pediatrician who told us that C would just follow his own curve and around 6 months he was expecting him to shoot up - that's exactly what happened.

Usually, as long as baby is having adequate wet diapers and not showing any signs of dehydration or other distress, even with slow weight gain, exclusive breast milk feeding is the way to go.

I have sensitive nipples. 

Oh yeah? Me, too!

Can it hurt a little in the beginning? Yes. Should it hurt the whole time? No.

If the latch is good, (which is a topic on the shelf for another day) it should not hurt for the entire duration of your breastfeeding relationship. A good way to initially check a latch is to assess if your baby is tugging or biting. It should feel like a strong tug so if it feels like a bite, break suction, start over and get the nipple deeper in the mouth until you feel a tug. This helps alleviate a lot of tenderness in the early days.

A question I get asked often by mothers experiencing tenderness is if it goes away. I'd love to tell you it does but the jury is still out. Does it go away or do we just toughen up and get used to it? 

Regardless, that wincing, piercing, OMG-why-am-I-doing-this feeling should subside in the first week or so. In the meantime, air out your nipples, wear gel pads, use lanolin cream, coconut or olive oil and ensure that your baby has a good latch.

My baby is hungry an hour after I nurse. There's no way he's getting enough.

The simple answer: You and your baby are designed to grow at the same rate. As long as you exclusively breastfeed, baby's tummy and your supply will grow together. In the first few days, when you just have colostrum -aka liquid gold- baby will probably want to eat small, frequent feedings and as milk gradually gets more calorie dense, there may be longer stretches between feedings.

Baby's tummy probably isn't going to be bigger than a marble on the day of birth and it will gradually increase in size.

As baby sucks more, mom will produce more, then baby's tummy will grow. If a bottle is introduced in these early days, baby will suck it down really fast and it is super easy so the tummy will expand faster than mom's supply can catch up.

What myths, wives' tales, or opinions did you have to combat in the early days of your breastfeeding relationship? Were you able to bust or overcome them?

Keep calm and nurse on, mamas. Til next time...

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