Everyone agrees that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding your baby. That said, it's not as easy for a lot of women as the books and TV shows make it appear to be. In fact, it can be downright difficult, frustrating, and a lot of work. Unfortunately, many women give up and reach for the bottle at the first sign of difficulty. There are lots of myths out there surrounding breastfeeding, and what works and doesn't. Here are a few of them, along with the real truth.
1. Breastfeeding will keep you from getting pregnant. This is a widely spread myth about breastfeeding, and based off the fact that exclusive breastfeeding will keep your periods at bay. While that is true for some women (I didn't have a period for over a year after 2 of my three children were born) it doesn't mean it is a reliable form of birth control. You can still ovulate before your periods return, so you will want to have a backup contraceptive on hand if you don't want another baby in 9 months.
2. Breastfeeding is more work, and more inconvenient than bottle feeding. Again, no true. While learning to successfully breastfeed your baby can take some work and practice in the early weeks, it is no more work than bottle feeding. In fact, it might be less work. Breast milk doesn't need to be warmed, there are no bottles to wash and prepare for each feeding, and it's always available any time or any place.
3. You can't return to work and continue to breastfeed. While returning to work will im
pact your breastfeeding relationship with your baby, there is no reason it needs to stop. It will take some careful planning – you'll need to find times and a place to pump and store your expressed milk, but you can still continue to give your baby breast milk in a bottle, and nurse frequently when you are back at home.
4. It hurts to breastfeed. Those early days may cause some mild uncomfortable moments, and you may find that you have some nipple pain and sensitivity, but it should not hurt to breastfeed. If it continually hurts, it could be caused by an improper latch or other problem. A lactation consultant can help with this and get you back on track.
The truth is that breast milk is nature's perfect food for your baby. If you are committed to making it work, and have a good support system in your spouse, family, and other friends, you should be able to get the hang of breastfeeding within a few weeks. Remember it's a learned skill, one that takes work and practice from both mom and baby. Don't give up if it gets hard – just keep working at it and don't be afraid to ask for help from a lactation specialist or your baby's doctor.