Monday Medical: Myths about breastfeeding
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Breastfeeding can be a great way to connect with and nourish your baby. But it’s not always easy: Sometimes, it can be confusing, challenging and downright hard.
Bronwyn Ebner, a registered nurse and lactation consultant at UCHealth Birth Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center, dispels common breastfeeding myths below.
Myth 1: Breastfeeding is easy.
“Just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s easy,” Ebner said. “It’s an art that takes patience, practice and persistence.”
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, get help as soon as possible. A trained professional such as a lactation consultant can usually provide tips and tricks that make a difference.
Myth 2: Breastfeeding is supposed to hurt.
While it’s common to have soreness when you’re learning to breastfeed, proper support and positioning of your baby can help you avoid pain and damage. If your nipples are bleeding, cracked or blistered, don’t suffer through it: Speak with a lactation consultant or other trained professional.
Myth 3: If I have COVID-19, I shouldn’t breastfeed.
If you have the virus, or have been exposed to it, experts say it’s OK to continue to breastfeed — just wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene.
“There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by breast milk,” Ebner said. “In fact, antibodies that you make when you are exposed to an illness are passed to your baby in your breast milk and offer support and protection to your baby’s developing immune system.”
Myth 4: Marijuana is natural, so it’s safe to use while breastfeeding.
Studies are inconclusive about how much THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects, reaches a baby through breast milk, but mothers should be cautious about using cannabis with pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“Because THC is stored in fat, it has the potential to negatively affect the baby’s developing brain,” Ebner said. “Also, mothers should avoid anything that impairs their judgement when they are caring for their baby.”
Myth 5: I should “pump and dump” any time I drink alcohol.
An occasional alcoholic drink has not been found to be dangerous with breastfeeding, but if you drink more than that, you can “pump and dump” until you no longer feel the effects of the alcohol. Do not care for or breastfeed your baby if you are impaired.
Myth 6: If I’m depressed, I can’t take medication and breastfeed.
New moms should never feel like they have to struggle through depression: Your health care provider can help you find antidepressants or other medications that are safe with breastfeeding.
“If you are suffering from chronic depression, anxiety or postpartum depression, please reach out to your health care provider,” Ebner said. “Your mental health is as important as your physical health.”
Myth 7: I wasn’t able to breastfeed my first baby, so I can’t breastfeed my next baby.
Every pregnancy and every baby are different, so breastfeeding may be a totally different experience with your second or third baby. Reach out to a lactation consultant to navigate your options and address any concerns.
Myth 8: If I breastfeed, then I can’t use formula.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, formula is always an option, too. “Any amount of breast milk is beneficial,” Ebner said.
Myth 9: I’m a bad mom if I don’t want to breastfeed.
Moms shouldn’t feel bad about doing what they deem is best for their family and baby, and for many, that means using formula.
“You should never feel pressured to breastfeed — it’s your body, your baby, your choice,” Ebner said. “We’re here to provide you with information and help.”
Myth 10: I should be able to do this on my own.
Being a new mom can be an isolating experience. Add a pandemic to the mix, and the stress and struggle can increase immensely. Never hesitate to seek help.
“As the old saying goes, ’It takes a village,’” Ebner said.
The Lactation Club, a breastfeeding support group offered by UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, should be able to start up again soon. “We are working to ensure we can safely offer this service,” Ebner said.
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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