I want to start by saying, whatever you have heard about breastfeeding/chestfeeding there could have been truth in it. Your friend or family member could have experienced one of these or it could be heavily driven by your culture. Where ever it came from I am here to shed some light on the myths we might have heard.
If for any reason you have believed these in the past, that is okay, no judgement. It is okay for you to change your mind.
#1 Breastfeeding will make your breasts saggy.
I hate to be the barrier of bad news but it is pregnancy ladies! During our first trimester our bodies start developing more mammary glands, taking up space in your breasts creating a tender, larger breast. This develop is so important for the start of breastfeeding. It is normal and expected! The truth is if you practice effective milk removal, limiting multiple engorgements, and have a gentle weaning process your breasts can shrink back to pre-pregnancy size or smaller. Will they sit lower, for some yes but they will not be "saggy".
#2 You have to wait until your milk "comes in" to start breastfeeding.
The jury is out and that is fake news. You start producing milk around 16 weeks gestation! Your first milk is colostrum. This magic milk is full of nutrients and immune boosting substances. The act of breastfeeding is also very comforting for you and your baby. The elevated hormone oxytocin after birth allows for easy removal of colostrum. The recommendation is to allow your baby the experience of breastfeeding/chestfeeding as soon as possible after birth, preferably within the first hour.
#3 You can not breastfeed with flat or inverted nipples.
A full term healthy infant is usually capable of pulling out the nipple. The proper support from an IBCLC on positioning with our tool belt of resources many mothers are able to breastfeed successfully. A prenatal visit with a professional would be beneficial.
#4 The size of your breasts will determine if you can breastfeed.
If you have small, medium or large breasts many times it does not matter. The fat storage in our breasts is a not a factor of your success. From the wise words of Joey Tribbiani, it is a "moo point". If your breasts are small and tubular with large areolas, the large dark area of the breast, consult with your physician or IBCLC. The important factor is the ability to have an increase in breast (mammary) growth during pregnancy.
#5 Nipple pain is normal.
Nipple pain is a significant sign of distress in women and is the second most known reason for early weaning! It is common to have a tugging sensation in the first couple days but this feeling does not make your toes curl. You should not feel any pinching, burning or have broken skin. The most known reason for nipple pain is poor latch and/or position or pump trauma. It is important that the moment you start to have nipple pain you reach out for help. Since there is a great deal of maternal anxiety and depression to unmanaged nipple pain the support of an IBCLC can help overcome the issue.
#6 You are dirty after birth or your first milk is dirty.
This is a belief held by many south Asian cultures. Many of them believe colostrum is not good for the baby and may provide alternative liquids such as sugar water, teas, including herbal teas, salty liquids as well as milk, porridge and honey until their mature milk arrives around day 3-5 postpartum. Other members of the community that are lactating might feed the baby. Many mothers in the United States provide their infant with formula until the arrival of mature milk. The truth about colostrum is that it is clean and contains important substance for your infants development such as, beneficial bacteria and immune boosting properties. If you have heard that you need to wash your breasts before a feed that is not needed. You have glands on your areolas that produce a substance that helps the baby smell their way to the nipple and clean the skin!
#7 List of foods to avoid.
I would not be surprised if you told me someone said not to eat some vegetables, spicy foods or beans. "The babies belly will be upset!" Honestly, it is very rare and far in-between that infants have an issue with digesting their mothers milk based off the maternal diet. It is recommended that you eat a well balanced diet of all the things. Eat what you enjoy! If you notice your baby is acting different after you eat a certain food talk with an IBCLC or a health care provider before eliminating foods from your diet.
#8 It comes naturally.
Infants are born with an innate ability to move to the breast when given the uninterrupted time. Mothers may need some hands on support in positioning, latch adjustment to the breast and insuring their infant is transferring milk.
There is a story of a gorilla that had lost her infant because she was never taught how to nurse her baby. She became pregnant again and Le Leche volunteers went to her space and breastfed their own babies in front of her - showing her how to do it! Her second baby survived!! I find that story to hit so close to home!
In our society we are not seeing many mothers openly breastfeed and that is doing a disservice to the community (and public health). We are missing the visual demonstration of connecting infants to the breast and support of knowing we are not alone and this is normal.
#9 Breastfeeding makes it harder for the other parent to bond with baby.
It is common for the partner to feel left out of such a special relationship between the breastfeeding parent and baby. Feeding is not the only way to connect with you breastfed infant. There are many other ways to bond with your baby such as skin to skin, talking or signing to them, playing games, participating in baby care or holding them. Baby wearing is a nice way to connect. These all help you bond with your baby and support your partner!
#10 If you go back to work you'll have to wean.
Many mothers breastfeed/chestfeed their babies after returning to work. First, check with your state policies for workplace pumping. Check out Oklahoma's breastfeeding at work guide, here. There is state law that "Breastfeeding mothers may use unpaid break and meal times to breastfeed or express breast milk at work. Employers are urged to provide a private area (other than a toilet stall) for this purpose."
There have been new portable pumps that allow mothers to keep working while pumping, that are covered by insurance. If for any reason, you are not able to express milk at work continue nursing baby when you get back with them. I recommend getting with a IBCLC to talk about your options and get the support you deserve.