Let me start by saying there are very legitimate reasons for not breastfeeding, from medical and physical reasons to just the fact that some women do not want to. That is okay. It does not make you a bad mom and bottle fed babies turn out just fine. This article is not to discuss the pros and cons of breastfeeding, or the health benefits. I think that is well established. It does make me sad, however, whenever I hear a mother who was hoping to breastfeed state that she couldn’t, and then back it up with a myth that was fed to her by a well meaning relative, or in an alarming number of cases, a medical professional.
Many women do not have enough milk to breastfeed.
This is just not true. In fact, studies show most women’s bodies are well equipped to make the needed amount of milk for each child they bare. However, many women fall prey to the beliefe that they do not make enough milk as they come to believe the following myths.
A crying baby or a baby that nurses frequently is not getting enough milk.
First let me say this, a breastfeeding baby should not be a schedule other than its own. It needs to be allowed to nurse whenever it shows interest. This not only ensures proper nourishment, but it ensures the mother’s milk supply keeps up with babies needs, as the best way to increase supply is to nurse. The human body is an amazing thing, and the more you nurse your baby, the more milk you make. If a mother cannot handle this, either physically or emotionally, breastfeeding may not be for her. The best mommy is a happy mommy. When I brought my first baby home, my lactation consultant told me to expect a “marathon” feeding session in a few days. She explained that this would be a period of time lasting from a few hours to a few days in which my baby may nurse every few minutes. She informed me that this did not mean that I was not making adequate milk, it simply meant that my baby needed more milk because it was growing, and by nursing him when he was interested he would get what he needed and my supply would be built up and eventually it would meet his needs for a longer period of time between feedings. This could happen every few months as growth spurts hit.
She also informed me that babies cry for all kinds of reasons, and that if his “output” was sufficient, based on the chart I was given as a guide, and his weight gain was good, there was absolutely no reason to think he wasn’t getting enough to eat. This information and support is what allowed me to continue breastfeeding. May young mothers are told that if their baby cries, does not sleep through the night, or nurses frequently, then they are hungry and need a supplemental form of nourishment. This is just not true.
Please note, however, that lack of weight gain and lack of sufficient “output” (wet and dirty diapers) are absolutely signs that your baby is not getting enough milk.
If you cannot express very much or any milk with a breast pump or your hand, you have a poor milk supply.
The fact of the matter is, your body responds to your baby much better than it does to a cold, impersonal machine or even your hand. If you do not express enough milk, it only means you cannot pump, not that you cannot breastfeed. There is a weath of information available on how to increase pumping volume. In the end, if you cannot pump milk to leave with your child while you are away, consider supplementing with another form of nourishment only when you are away. You can still nurse while your and your baby are together. Beware that as you decrease nursing, your milk supply will drop, but it should still support the times you are able to nurse.
Breastfeeding is no easy, and it takes practice, if you really want to, and you go into it know that it might take time and effort, it can be very rewarding. Just remember that the only true way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is weight gain and output, and you will have a head start on having the right mindset. Also, remember that many breastfeeding babies do not sleep through the night for the first year. It is not because they aren’t getting enough milk, but rather breast milk digests faster, or they may simply crave the comfort of the breast when they wake at night. Just be prepared, and enjoy the breastfeeding experience if that is what you choose to do.