by Robyn Jones – B.Sc. (Psych), NSW, Australia
As women, when we have a new baby to care for we want to give them all that we can. This includes the choice in how we feed them – through either breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or mixed feeding.
Currently there is a significant amount of pressure on women to breastfeed. For some this may mean they have to overcome some serious physical challenges that may be experienced, or even to override what they truly feel is needed for both themselves and their baby.
There are a number of myths making the rounds about breastfeeding that can negatively affect this very vulnerable and precious time and in this 3-part series of articles we are looking at six of the most common.
So far, in Breastfeeding Myths Busted – Part 1, we have discussed:
Myth 1 – Breastfeeding is the ‘best’ way to feed and nourish baby
- Breastfeeding is not always what is ‘best’ for some women and babies.
- As women, we have the choice of what feeding option is most supportive and the best for us and our babies.
Myth 2 – Breastfeeding is the strongest way to bond with baby
- Connecting and bonding with our baby comes from our heart, not our breasts.
- We bond with our babies through connecting with them – heart to heart, not from the method we choose to feed them.
Revealing these myths for what they are and the harm that comes from believing them to be true is important in freeing all women to be able to listen to the inner wisdom we all hold – to support us to return to listening to the knowing we all have within, and to stop looking outside of ourselves for permission to choose what we feel and know will truly support us and our families.
So let’s explore two more myths that can potentially affect this delicate time and our confidence, as well as how we feel about and take care of ourselves throughout the process:
Myth 3 – Breastfeeding will be ‘easy’ because it is natural
Most of us who have breastfed our children will know how untrue this statement is. Yes, breastfeeding is natural, but this certainly does not mean it is ‘easy’. For some women there is an ease to breastfeeding from the beginning, but in the majority of cases breastfeeding is in fact a learned skill.
There are also many challenges that can come with breastfeeding – cracked or sensitive nipples, supply issues, the health of the mother, the health of the baby, the many and varied feeding positions, and many more. Navigating these challenges is an important part of being a woman, as it is a time where we are given the opportunity to make loving and supportive choices for ourselves, which are naturally felt and enjoyed by our baby.
Yet, many of us overlook these opportunities, especially if we are caught up in breastfeeding being ‘easy’ or the ‘best’ way to nourish our babies. We persevere through extreme pain with bleeding or cracked nipples, debilitating mastitis, and can often put our mental health and our physical health at risk to achieve the task of breastfeeding. There is something to be said about perseverance until we become more at ease with something, and another about downright abusing ourselves to achieve an ideal.
So, it pays to remember that breastfeeding is natural, but it is certainly not always ‘easy’, and as women we need to make the most loving and supportive choices we can make for ourselves and our bodies, as this love and care naturally flows onto our babies.
Myth 4 – Breastfeeding will help with losing weight
This myth is something many women fall for during pregnancy. It can be seen as a license to eat for two under the guise that once breastfeeding happens the weight will simply drop off. Well, that is what we are told, right!?
Obviously, with this being a myth, there are a plethora of women in the world who are bitterly disappointed that this is in fact not true. If only we had of known the truth earlier we could have been more responsible with our food choices during pregnancy and in those early months following the birth!
Being playful aside, there can be a very serious consequence to this myth. It comes in the form of our expectations of breastfeeding and the weight loss process after giving birth, and how not having these expectations met can impact on our sense of well being and ultimately our mental health.
There are so many reasons why women lose weight or don’t lose weight – why some women lose weight while breastfeeding and why others gain weight. The truth is it comes down to our relationship with ourselves as women, how we express ourselves as a mother, as well as what we feed and nourish ourselves with – along with physical exercise, sleeping patterns, how we care for ourselves during the day, and much more.
So how can we place so much responsibility onto losing weight from the simple act of breastfeeding? It just doesn’t make sense when we look at how many factors are actually involved in the weight loss process. Breastfeeding is certainly not a weight loss program that can be relied on or guaranteed.
Four myths down, two more to go
So that is now four myths exposed, explored, and discussed. We have two more to go. Join us for Breastfeeding Myths Busted – Part 3 as the final two myths are exposed and the harm they can cause is revealed. Therefore, supporting us to be able to let these falsities go and allowing space for us to make true choices that support us, our babies, and our families from the wisdom that resides in all of us. To catch up on Breastfeeding Myths Busted – Part 1 click here.
Before you move on, it would be great to hear from you about your thoughts and feelings on what has been discussed in this article and whether the myths that have been exposed have had an impact on you or your breastfeeding experience. Please share in the comments below.
Original article was published on the Mouths of Mums website on June 27, 2016.