Myth: There is no way to tell a baby is getting milk while breastfeeding.
Fact: Although breasts do not have ounce markers, you can tell your baby is getting milk while breastfeeding in several simple ways. Watch for “pauses in the action of the chin” which indicate the mouth filling with milk, and listen for a “kah” sound which indicates swallowing (see the video below). After feeding, your baby ideally will act satisfied, and no longer exhibit feeding cues that typically indicate hunger. Longer term, you can be certain that your baby is taking in enough milk if he has plenty of wet and dirty diapers, and is growing, gaining weight, and meeting milestones. Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned that your baby is not getting enough milk.
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Myth: There is no milk for the first few days after birth.
Fact: Your breasts begin producing colostrum, your first milk, around 4 and half months of pregnancy. Colostrum is a thick, sticky fluid that is produced in relatively small quantities, yet it is delivered in the perfect volumes for your newborn’s stomach capacity. It contains all the nutrition your baby needs, plus a big boost of anti-infective factors, prebiotics and probiotics that will help protect your baby from illness. Most moms will notice that their milk becomes more plentiful, or “comes in”, about 72 hours after birth. Before then, colostrum is all baby needs except in the rare circumstance that additional nutrition is medically indicated.
Myth: Pain while breastfeeding is normal, especially in the first few weeks.
Fact: Pain is the way our bodies alert us to a problem and let us know something needs to change. Breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful; certainly not like the pain that is so often described in parenting urban legends!
The first days (sometimes even a week or two) after birth, some mothers may experience what lactation experts call “normal tenderness”. It is described as discomfort that lasts through the first few sucks of a feeding, then resolves for the rest of the feeding. Some mothers say the sensation is mildly painful, rather than just uncomfortable. Normal tenderness is often correlated to stretching of the nipple into the back of baby’s mouth. It has been theorized that general breast tenderness in the first weeks could be related to the normal shift in hormones after the placenta is delivered, or even the initial “stretching” due to filling of the breasts with milk.
Normal tenderness is different from pain that indicates nipple damage is occurring. How can you tell the difference between normal and pain that indicates a problem? Normal will improve with time (every feeding will be a little better) and will not be severe enough to negatively impact breastfeeding. Just remember this: Pain that negatively impacts breastfeeding is not normal!
If you experience pain that lasts throughout the feeding , or makes you dread feedings and contemplate weaning, talk to an experienced lactation consultant right away. Feeding through pain can compound the issue leading to bruising, cracks, infection or other problems. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be able to nurse comfortably and truly begin to enjoy your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. The solution for breastfeeding pain is often a very simple one, such as adjusting positioning or latch. Waiting to seek help can make simple problems much more complicated. Do not wait!
When to ask for help:
- you experience toe-curling pain that makes you dread feedings
- you experience pain throughout feedings
- your nipple(s) looks smashed, misshapen, or discolored after feeding
- your nipple(s) are cracked, bruised, and/or bleeding
- your baby nurses “all the time” and never or rarely shows signs of satisfaction
- your baby has difficulty latching on, or staying latched on to the breast
- your nipples are sore between feedings
- you experience nipple pain that radiates into the breast
- pain is not improving with time, or is getting worse
Build a support network for yourself. Your support network might include friends, family, breastfeeding support groups, lactation consultant, your midwife, or doula. If you seek breastfeeding help from a professional and you still do not get relief, please seek another opinion. You should not have to live in pain or prematurely wean in order to feel better.
Myth: Pumping is a good way to find out how much milk you make.
Fact: If you are breastfeeding your baby, pumping cannot tell you how much milk you are producing. There are many variables that can affect how much milk can be removed with a pump including the efficiency of the pump, how well your body responds to the pump, how long it has been since you last fed your baby, your pumping technique (pumping alone or “hands on”), and perhaps even your breast storage capacity. The best way to know that you are making enough milk is to look at your baby. Is he gaining weight? Growing in length and head circumference? Generally content? Meeting milestones? If so, then rest assured that you are making enough for your baby! If you are having difficulty expressing milk, or if you are concerned about how much milk you are making, talk to your breastfeeding support volunteer or lactation consultant.
Myth: If you breastfeed, you will have to stay at home most of the time and nobody else can help you with the baby.
Fact: Breastfed babies are very portable. There are no bottles, formula, and related items to carry with you (or forget at home!). All you really need for an outing are diapers and wipes. It is easy to breastfeed anywhere, just as it is to bottle-feed anywhere. If you are concerned about feeding in public, consider trying some of these confidence-boosting tips. Your comfort level will increase with time and practice!
There are lots of ways other people can help you care for your baby. Breastfeeding is the only thing that you can do for your baby that no one else can. Your family and friends can help by changing, bathing, rocking, walking, playing with, singing to, or carrying your baby. They can also help by taking care of YOU and important household tasks like laundry, meal preparation, running errands, cleaning, and entertaining older children. Don’t be too shy to ask for help when you need it, even if it is just for 15 minutes to take a shower or take a walk around the block.
Myth: You have to drink milk to make milk.
Fact: Nutrients and calories are required to produce milk, and nutrition can come from any food source (ideally, a variety of foods in as close to their natural state as possible; “whole foods”). There is no one food that a mother must eat in order to produce milk. In fact, it is not necessary for humans to drink cow’s milk at all, though many people do enjoy drinking it or eating dairy in it’s many forms (such as cheese and yogurt).
Kent, J.C. et al (2006) Volume and Frequency of Breastfeedings and Fat Content of Breast Milk Throughout the Day Pediatrics, 117(3), 387-395
Mohrbacher, N (2010) Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers Amarillo, Texas. Hale Publishing, L.P.
Riordan, J. , Wambach, K. (2009) Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Sudbury, MA. Jones and Bartlett Publishers
Wilson-Clay, B., Hoover. K (2005) The Breastfeeding Atlas Manchaca, Texas. LactNews Press
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