The End of the Mythbusting Breastfeeding Series

Before I finish up this series, I just wanted to point out to those of you who don’t know: Black Breastfeeding Week happens at the end of this month (Aug 25-31) and Native Breastfeeding Week is happening right now (Aug 9-15)- since this is my last post in this series (see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I wanted to help to bring awareness to these weeks.

I’m not really a huge supporter of advocacy for a cause for a week only – I feel this way about mental health weeks too. Why can’t we bring awareness to mental health issues daily?

Similarly, why can’t we recognize the struggles Black and Native women face with breastfeeding daily too? Why can’t we work to support the things we care about at any time? Well, we can. The importance of weeks like this is to initiate the awareness – but when the week is over it doesn’t mean you have to stop.

All that being said, I recognize that I am a White woman and I don’t want to take away from any of the voices that are speaking out on these weeks with lived experiences.

So please check out the links I included above, educate yourselves, and support if you can in any way – even just by bringing more awareness to these causes and the inequities faced by Black and Native women when it comes to breastfeeding. A like or a follow can also go a long way, as well as sharing info from these sites and their related associations/sponsors. I’m going to include a few more links below:

Check out these quick bits of info & associated links to find out more about Native and Black Breastfeeding Weeks and why they are important:

*Breastfeeding rates are much lower in American Indian/Alaska Native populations and Black women when compared to other populations (Check out: La Leche League’s post here for more on Native Breastfeeding Week and Milky Mama’s post here on Black Breastfeeding Week). Lack of accessible information + decreased knowledge on breastfeeding, minimal medical (insurance), financial barriers, and social support, minimal diversity in the lactation consultant population, all contribute.

*Breastfeeding in both of these populations also generally does not last as long (because of many of the same factors mentioned above – lack of support that is culturally appropriate likely being a big contributor) (Here is La Leche League page on Black Breastfeeding Weeknote that in some areas like the United Kingdom, breastfeeding rates were higher and of longer duration for Black women than in say, the United States).

*Infant mortality rate for Black babies is two times more likely (or more depending on location) than in White babies – this stems from many ingrained, racial inequities that sadly still exist in society today.

A Few Ways to Learn More:

  • This one isn’t specifically related to these populations, but a great resource for breastfeeding mothers overall!

If you have any other resources I can add to this post, please share them with me! My e-mail is info@elephantinthewomb.ca and I would love to add them for people who need them or want to learn more.

Now, back to myth busting.

*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*

My breasts are smaller so I will not produce a lot of milk.

Only 2.2% of 89 voters said this was true – it is not. Your breast size has nothing to do with milk production.

I mean, it’s not a totally farfetched thing to believe being breasts do often grow during pregnancy and sometimes size is associated with production in other relationships. For example, a bigger workshop can produce more product – isn’t that how breasts work?!

Nay. Breast milk production is not related to breast size but more related to the amount of epithelial tissue in the breast. If your breasts have lots of cells related to milk production, then you should be able to produce milk efficiently.

Interestingly, the amount your breasts grow during pregnancy may be associated with milk production later on, according to a study from 2015. Body mass index (BMI) being higher can negatively impact milk production, while having a full term pregnancy increases the chance of successful lactation and milk production, since the breasts and related cells have more time to develop.

Other factors can also affect supply such as pain, poor latch (and therefore, inefficient nursing from the baby), past breast surgery, medications, or other diagnoses.

Will my breasts become saggy from breastfeeding?

54.4% of 90 voters said that this would not happen. Breastfeeding does not appear to be a cause of what is formally called breast ptosis.

Studies from 2008 and 2010 looked at causes of breast ptosis, and both of these studies found that breastfeeding was not a significant contributor to sagging of the breasts.

Pregnancy (and number of pregnancies) was related to an increase in ptosis, as well as some other factors such as age, increased BMI or a large weight loss of >50 lbs, size of breasts prior to pregnancy (increased size = increased chance), and smoking (2008 & 2010 studies both showed this).

I think I have mastitis. Do I need to go to the ER?

This wasn’t one I asked in my polls, but a request from a Twitter friend to briefly cover.

My #1 recommendation if you feel anything iffy is going on is of course to try and get in contact with your primary care provider, or if you’re in Ontario or somewhere that has a similar service, call Telehealth for advice specific to your situation.

With mastitis, if that’s what you think it is, you want to try and contact your provider ASAP, as a possible complication is breast abscess and worsening infection. If you can’t get a hold of a provider and you feel truly unwell, then you need to take next steps to address your issue as soon as possible.

Treatment of mastitis involves antibiotics, which is why you need to be seen. There are some at-home options as well – one of them being continuing to feed your baby, even from the affected breast (if possible – if not, pumping is the alternative).

I was told never to breastfeed my baby to sleep. Will doing this cause developmental issues?

87.8% of 82 voters said this was false. There is only an issue with doing this if it is an issue for you!

Breastfeeding your baby to sleep, in my opinion, is very much a personal choice based on many factors. One being whether or not it’s something you’re committed to doing for sometime, and the other being if it works for your baby.

It is actually very normal to do this, and is a form of “comfort nursing”. It is not developmentally harmful for your baby.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby, as I am sure many of you have heard before. One of them is that it helps to calm baby down, which is helpful when they are trying to go to dreamland. It can also help them deal with stress off the breast. Additionally, it helps them (and you) to feel sleepy as a result of hormones that are released while breastfeeding.

If you are not comfortable doing this however that is okay! By choosing to do it you are not harming your child. Kellymom really dives into this topic on this page and I advise you to read through some of the questions & responses if you are feeling worried that you are doing something wrong by comfort nursing.

Personally – I comfort nurse Maggie all the time. I’m on a year long maternity leave, so spending that time with her at night is something I don’t mind and actually enjoy. It makes her feel happy, comfortable, and sleepy too. That’s what matters most to me – our happiness!

My baby sleeps through the night, do I need to pump overnight in place of the feeding?

48.8% of 84 voters said no, the idea that you do is false. If you have supply issues, or you want to pump to be more comfortable, you certainly can – but if baby is sleeping through the night then you can sleep too!

Once baby is out of the newborn phase and if you’re lucky and hit the jackpot with a babe that sleeps through the night from earlier on – then you can drop your night feeding if your milk supply is well established.

The Medela website which of course, sells breast pumps, says that if you drop the night pumping session, this could be an issue when baby hits sleep regressions during growth spurts…

Breastfeeding works on a supply and demand basis – so although baby isn’t eating over night, you are likely still feeding them lots during the day and their stomachs can handle more so they are eating more per session. This means there is still demand – just a new schedule which is fine and shouldn’t cause any problems with supply.

So if baby is older, growing well, and getting enough to eat, and you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night since they aren’t anymore – enjoy your Zzz’s mamas! Again, unless it is very uncomfortable for you than feel free to pump or do whatever you need. Your choice, as always!

And my favorite breastfeeding myth: I’m breastfeeding so I can’t get pregnant, right?!

I actually recently answered this one in Part 2 of my Birth Control Myths Series!

Short answer: breastfeeding as birth control has very specific criteria, and a very short timeline. Better to be safe than sorry and use an additional method in most cases – but talk to your provider about your options!

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