Transcript: Top 5 Breastfeeding Myths That Need to Stop

Welcome back to The Breastfeeding Talk Podcast. I'm your host, Jacqueline Kincer. And today I'm gonna be talking about the top five myths regarding breastfeeding. The news just keeps circulating around the internet and social media and they just won't die. I wish we could put these to rest. I recently saw one on a very popular sort of baby mom account. And I just have to say like, if you're looking to these sort of influencer accounts or generic sort of pregnancy accounts, they're not really run by experts in particular spaces. It's kind of like, you know, if you have an OB sharing things about breastfeeding an OB, I'm sorry, they're just not they're not experts in breastfeeding. A pediatrician is not an expert in infant feeding. 


And so just be careful where you're getting your information from. You know, and I see it, a lot of moms want to hear these myths, because it validates some part of their experience. But just because you had XYZ experience does not make it true, does not make it true for everyone else, I guess is what I want to say. And I'm not here to deny a woman's truth. But if you don't have a good clinical understanding of why something happened, it's easy for you to fall for some of these myths and believe them. So there's just this huge backlash, I would say in general, from the community of moms, especially the wellness community, which is interesting, in terms of sort of denying what health care providers have to say. 


And this has been an ongoing issue with the pandemic and whatnot. But I used to think that lactation consultants were seen as you know, more sort of natural-minded health care providers, and that we sort of bridge that gap between Western medicine and alternative medicine. And I don't know what's gone on recently, I can't really speak for the average consumer, because I'm kind of at a loss myself. But I don't know why moms out there continue to try to DIY everything themselves. And they would rather trust what they see on a social media account versus get actual expert verified evidence-based clinical experience-based advice from a lactation consultant, it blows my mind, honestly, because what I see happening, what I know is happening is that moms are getting duped. Big time. 


They are being misled, sometimes purposefully for the sake of someone else selling a program or a product or what have you. And these myths just get perpetuated over and over and over again. And it does damage to moms, it does damage to their ability to breastfeed, it does damage their confidence with breastfeeding. And they're just given wrong information. At this point, I would say, you know, if you're going to be putting out breastfeeding content, and you're not a breastfeeding expert, bring a breastfeeding expert on to create this content for you to collaborate with you. And on top of that, if you're putting out, you know, things that are incorrect information, it's no longer misinformation at this point. It's actually disinformation. It's honestly kind of purposeful, for views and clicks and likes and all of that. 


And so, you know, just because something has been shared a bunch of times, just because an account has a bunch of followers does not mean you should trust this advice. So, rant over, I am going to be diving into some of these just biggest myths out there that have just got to die. And they're particularly ones that I've been seeing shared recently on popular social media accounts. I will not be naming names, but if you're following some of these accounts, you might have seen them so let's start with my favorite one. Which is this number one. Breastfeeding is painful. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?


Look, I get it. Breastfeeding can be painful. Okay, that is true. Yes. Is it supposed to be painful in the very beginning? No, absolutely not. And I don't understand the backlash. against this, I honestly don't. It's like women are over here screaming at people like me saying, well, it was painful for me. So How dare you tell me that it's not supposed to be painful? And I'm like, Yeah, but if breastfeeding was meant to be painful, why would that be the way that we would we were biologically meant to nourish our species. That doesn't make any sense. Like how, how successful would we be at feeding human babies if breastfeeding was supposed to hurt us? Like, that doesn't make any evolutionary sense. It doesn't hurt other mammals to nurse. Why on earth, would it be hurting us? 


That makes no sense. You guys like does logically let's think about that. On the other side of that, let's say breastfeeding is supposed to hurt in the beginning, then what is wrong with all of the moms out there that never experienced breastfeeding pain? Something must be wrong with them. If breastfeeding is supposed to hurt in the beginning, what are they doing wrong? Do you see how this just logically doesn't make sense? So beyond just the logic argument, people are convinced, right, they've either convinced themselves or they've let someone else convince them that breastfeeding should be painful in the beginning, because this is new, their nipples have never done this before. You know, their skin has to get used to this. This is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. Your breasts that tissue, the areola, the nipple, it is meant for breastfeeding. It is not meant for literally anything else at all other than breastfeeding. And just because you've never quote unquote used it before. 


During pregnancy, your breasts are going through a process of breast growth and development that is facilitated by your pregnancy hormones, much like those hormones are dictating what's happening once you give birth to the placenta. And that's changing the way that lactation works, but also what's happening inside the breast in terms of the glandular tissue and all of that. So can breastfeeding be something that you experience some tenderness in the beginning? Is that normal? Sure. Absolutely. I think that is common, that is normal. Some slight soreness and tenderness can be normal, while your body is adjusting to nursing. But if you are experiencing pain, or discomfort, or something hurts you, that is not normal. I don't care how many followers someone says it's not normal. 


We know it's not normal. I mean, like, it's just not, it's not normal for your nipples to be cracked, and bleeding. It's not normal for them to be bright red, it's not normal for you to have unbearable pain, every time you go to latch your baby, it is not normal for it to absolutely kill you to have any material a bra or otherwise touching your nipples. That is not normal. That is a problem. That is absolutely a sign of a problem. tissue damage to your skin is not normal. And I am not going to sit here and stand for that. I'm just not. Breastfeeding should not be painful. If you're experiencing pain or discomfort, get help from an ibclc right away, they are going to be the ones who are going to fast track you to a solution, they're going to figure out the issue. They're going to guide you and your baby through latching and breastfeeding positions. They're going to give you the right remedies to resolve whatever damage has happened to the nipple, and sort of you futzing around and going and trying all of these different products for the next week, two weeks seeing what works, seeing what doesn't like just go to the expert and get the answer. I don't understand this. 


Like, why do you want to prolong your pain. And I'm not going to say that every ibclc out there is qualified to give you the right solution. They're not unfortunately, just like, you know, every doctor, every plumber, you know, you're going to have the good and the bad. But in general, please don't waste time. Breastfeeding pain is one of the number one reasons why women stopped breastfeeding in the very beginning. And they may stop just nursing and end up exclusive pumping. Or they may just go you know what, I'm not gonna breastfeed at all. And so that's really sad. Pain is correctable, it is not something that is wrong with your body. It is a signal, a loud screaming signal from your body to say, please help me something isn't right. And we would love it if you would listen to your body in that respect. So it is not normal. It is a sign of a problem. And it could just be the watch. It could be that there's oral ties, it could be something else that is going on. And you're very unlikely to know unless you are an expert in helping supporting breastfeeding. 


And that's not to say that you don't know what you're doing or you're just you're you know, you have no idea what's going on with your body. But I think a lot of moms will be the first to admit I have no idea what I'm doing. Right like you don't if you've never breastfed before, it is really hard to teach you how to do it until you're in it. And once you're in it, we can help you correct it. And the sooner we correct things, the better. We set proper motor patterns, right muscle memory, you know, motor neuron learning all of that, that can help you create a much easier smoother breastfeeding journey going forward, as opposed to waiting until things are really bad. It's been three weeks, six weeks, six months. And now you're finally just getting help with things. So get that help early on, so that you can get on track to better successful breastfeeding. Let's talk about another myth that kind of has to do with, you know, what I'm talking about here in terms of I mentioned breast development and whatnot. I saw a physical therapist share this the other day, which physical therapists are not experts in lactation or breastfeeding. So don't take that with a grain of salt. Absolutely. And, you know, it was really that breastfeeding makes your breasts saggy, that breastfeeding changes your breasts, usually for the worse is what a lot of people will say. 


And I just have to tell you, this is a myth that needs to die. That is not how breastfeeding works. It's not how nursing works is not pumping works. Breastfeeding, does not change your breasts. Do you know what does change your breasts and makes them different? pregnancy? Pregnancy is what does that. So we have research that shows this hormonal and weight fluctuations during pregnancy are the main cause of Rush changes. Right? I mentioned there are hormones that are facilitating breast tissue development during pregnancy, those are primarily estrogen and progesterone. Aging and your family's genetics also play a role. So your tissue elasticity, all of that, but those changes in your breasts are made during pregnancy. There are some changes that happen, you know, in the first, you know, few days week after birth, but they are not big changes to your breasts, like what happened during your pregnancy. So just, you know, it's it's interesting to me that people think this and I get why they think this, it's sort of like if this than that, right? 


So if I breastfed and my breasts look different, it must be breastfeeding that changed them. But there were plenty of women. Definitely the minority of women, though, that give birth and they immediately work to dry up their milk, and they never breastfeed, and their breasts have changed if their breasts change during pregnancy, their breasts have changed. And so it's probably not talked about because it's not very common, most women are attempting to do some breastfeeding right after birth. So you know, think about it this way, right? That's like, that's like blaming your, the changes in your stomach on breastfeeding. Know your stomach because your your belly gets stretched out with pregnancy, right. And that can create saggy skin. And that can create stretch marks. 


And, you know, yes, your uterus goes back to a normal size after afterwards, but your skin is still left stretched out, it is the same thing with the bras. Same thing with the breasts. So it's not breastfeeding that does something negative to your breasts. In fact, once you wean from breastfeeding and lactation completely, your breasts go through a process called involution. And essentially what evolution does is it's the process of breaking down the glandular tissue where milk is produced in the breasts. And it's rearranging the fat in the bras to replace the pockets of, of breast tissue where that glandular tissue is taking up space. So your breasts sort of get remodeled. This is a process that takes weeks or months, depending on how long you actually lactated for. And when your breasts get remodeled like that, they pretty much go back to how they were before, the only change that's really going to be visible once you fully weaned and gone through this process of convolution, our changes to the skin. So the breast skin, the nipple tissue may be different as well. 


And possibly the areola or the Montgomery glands or something like that. But those are gonna be really minor. It's overall the breast skin. And the skin is what's responsible, in a lot of ways for creating the shape of the breast, the position of the breast connected to our chest wall, all of that. And so, you know, yeah, if it got stretched out during pregnancy, which is when that happens, then it's not because you use your breasts that they got stretched up. Does that make sense? Hopefully that does. So anyway, just think about it that way. Like during pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of big changes, and it's pregnancy that's creating those changes. And so just like your tummy gets stretched out, your breasts also gets stretched out. It's really the same thing. So it's, it's actually pretty common sense. You'll, you'll find a lot of these myths get busted by just common sense and logical thinking, which I always think is really kind of interesting and that sort of sense. 


So let's talk about this other one. To this comes up a lot, and it really comes out of it actually comes from ibclcs. A lot of the time ibclc is that have not done any sort of in depth education along the way. And this one is that herbs are ineffective for increasing milk supply, or I often hear there's no evidence to support herbs for milk supply. That's just the absolute most novice statement ever. There is evidence there has been evidence for decades, and across all cultures throughout the world. So there's evidence you can go to PubMed, and you can look up evidence on that you can use resources like E lefthand. CEA, for instance, there are entire books written on galactagogue, which are substances that you can ingest to increase milk supply, whether that be foods or herbs, or what have you. Yes, absolutely. herbs can change the amount of milk that you're making. And it's nonsensical for someone to sit there and say there's no evidence. That's a completely untrue statement. It's it's absolutely false. And so I don't know why people think this, they just want to tell you, hey, all you need to do is just worry about supply and demand. That's not true. 


If you're if you're a half decent lactation consultant, you know, that's not the full picture of, of milk production. So yes, obviously, we have to cover the basics, which is you've got to be removing milk frequently enough and effectively enough, that's the key, most people aren't doing that piece. In order to not only increase your milk supply, but sustain your current milk supply, then we've got to look at what's going on with your diet. So hydration is a factor. So things like electrolytes, and addition to water itself. Diet is also a factor. Some people are very sensitive to carbohydrate intake, we have to have more carbs, more energy to produce breast milk, you need more calories than you did during pregnancy to produce breast milk. And so you've got to have a great balance of carbs and fats and proteins and all of that. micronutrients, absolutely play a role. So if you're not getting enough from diet of those micronutrients, and things, of something maybe missing, you're just running through it very quickly, because you're you're depleted from pregnancy, from birth from lactation, and you're not replenishing enough of those things. 


That's where herbs come into play. Herbs are just really a concentrated form. They're, they're sort of a type of food, if you will, right, and they're just more concentrated, they can give you that boost of nutrients that your body is depleted of that it's missing in order to function really well. And lactation is really just a side effect of everything else. Right. So if you're not taking really good care of your health, odds are that milk production is going to be a challenge for you. The reason for that is because your body is going to prioritize making milk for your baby. That's really just a survival mechanism that's built in. So if something is really off, you're going to struggle to make enough milk for your baby. Now, that's not to say herbs are the end all be all and different ones work for different people. And that's where we have to look at hormones. I'm a big fan of getting lab work. If you truly have like an unsolved mystery of I'm using the right pump the right settings, I'm pumping frequently enough, I've got the right plan size and doing all the right things, but I'm still not making enough milk. 


Okay, well, let's look deeper. Let's look into your health history. Are there medications you're on? Do you have certain health conditions that we know are going to predispose you to low milk supply? If you do, or if you don't, maybe we want to take a look at lab work, let's see what your hormones are doing. Maybe there's something out of whack there. And if it's early on enough, we can correct it. Even if it's not, you know, sometimes there's herbs that we can use to help balance hormones and things. So a lot of medications, pharmaceuticals, they're actually made based on you know, extracts that we've discovered from herbs over the years. So yeah, herbs actually do work. I don't know why people don't think they do, I can come you know from this experience of telling you that, you know, the reason why I created the advanced lactation formula supplement for increasing milk supply is that I saw herbs work in my practice and moms would say well, you know, how do I get this blend I want like an all in one. So I created an all-in-one. 


And you can go and read the reviews that I've never paid anybody to give me and you can go read the reviews of their personal experience and you know, it's a night and day effect. It's just people are going from taking other herbs or you know, other products or what have you, and they go and take the advanced lactation formula like holy crap, I'm making a ton of milk now. So you know, they work I don't know what to tell you. They work and to sit there and deny that is ridiculous and say there's no evidence is ridiculous. In fact, like, you know, I don't want to get into the product. I have a whole episode on that. So you're welcome to look it up. But all of the ingredients in there are evidence-based for doing things to increase lactation. So they're backed by studies. And I think that's a really important thing to acknowledge is that there are a lot of products out there on the market that really aren't backed by studies. And those herbs sound nice, but they're not particularly effective. 


So you just need to, you know, if you want to dive into that, and look at that evidence, it's out there, it's out there, you know, in the United States, but this is accessible overseas, because we have the internet, you can go to the PubMed database, this is that run by the National Institutes of Health and the United States. And you can look up pretty much any study that's in there. And, you know, you may not have access to the full text unless you pay for it. There are a lot of Full-Text studies on there for free. But you can absolutely go look at the evidence. So it's there. All right, let's move on to another myth. And I see this from the sleep training community a lot. I don't ever see it from the breastfeeding community. And it is that you shouldn't nurse your baby to sleep. I mean, come on, folks. I wish this was interactive, and not just a podcast, I want to see how many of you think that you should not nurse your baby to sleep. A baby falling asleep to breast at the breast. While nursing is normal. It's what they're designed to do. It is the easiest way to get your baby to sleep. 


Also, since lactation works on a circadian rhythm, your hormones are changing over a 24-hour period. When you nurse your baby to sleep in those evening hours, your body is making melatonin and your baby is getting melatonin through that breast milk. And Melatonin is a hormone that helps your baby fall asleep. They're also getting tryptophan, which is actually really a precursor to melatonin and serotonin. All of these feel-good hormones that help your baby Calm down, but to fall asleep. Why on earth would you not want to nurse your baby to sleep? This is the easiest way to get them to sleep. You don't need special swaddles. You don't need special tricks, you don't need a methodology, any of that you just put the baby on the boob. You nurse them and they fall asleep when babies are tired, they will fall asleep. It is not rocket science. I don't understand this. This is like just this idea that you're teaching your baby a bad habit by nursing to sleep. It's like what? Why are we training babies to be so disconnected from the loving caregiver human that has nourished them in the womb for the past nine or 10 months? 


And suddenly they are earthside. And we just want them to have zero attachment to us. It's bizarre to me, it is absolutely bizarre to me that we think that that's healthy, let alone normal. It's not normal. That is really just, I don't even know there's a whole thing I can say about sleep and attachment parenting, and that'll be a future episode for sure. But babies are supposed to nurse to sleep, they'll wake up multiple times during the night, they're supposed to nurse back to sleep, there's no harm, there's zero evidence out there that there's any harm from nursing your baby to sleep. Again, this makes your life easier, a hell of a lot easier, okay? Because all you have to do is put them on the boob and then the nurse may go to sleep. Now if your baby's not nursing at the breast, you know, it's a different story, right. But if they are, then this is just the easiest thing. 


You know, what I want to remind people of is nursing is really a way of mothering your child. It is not just giving them food, it is how you calm them down. It's how you get them to sleep. It's how you help them transition to being awake. It's how you help them through developmental stage stages. It's how you help them through being scared. It's all of those things. It is like automatic, you don't even have to really consciously make an effort to do these things. Whereas, you know, when you're trying all of these different sleep methods, methodologies, like what is it like eat play sleep is one of these methods. And it's weird to me that you would do the eating thing which makes your baby sleepy and drowsy, then you would purposefully wake them up, make them play with you. And then make them overtired and overstimulated and then you would want to try and get them to sleep that is making your job so much harder. And I know that these people like to tell you that there's some sort of science or they have all of these years of experience or whatever. 


The truth is, is that your baby never needed help falling asleep to begin with. Babies will get tired, and they will close their eyes and they will fall asleep. Maybe not when you want them to maybe not on your schedule, because their brains are on a different schedule. Their brains are going through something developmentally that you really don't remember because you were an infant when it happens. And so we have to honor that right? We cannot make a baby's sleep schedule fit into an adult sleep schedule. It's not supposed to work that way. It's actually not safe for it to work that way. When we are stifling your baby Babies developmental needs and hunger cues and all of that we are potentially looking at not feeding them enough, we are potentially looking at not honoring their developmental needs for connection for a feeling of safety and all of that. And that's wiring their brains to not develop trust with their caregivers, to not have as close of a bond. 


And so we don't want that. We want to make our babies feel safe, we want us to be that place that they feel safe, that they feel comforted, that they feel completely taken care of, your baby should feel completely taken care of. And so if you're denying that nursing before sleep, your baby does not feel completely taken care of. It's not just food, it's connection, it's a relationship. It's all of that. So you should be nursing your baby to sleep. Not every baby will want to nurse asleep every single time. But it is developmentally normal, that babies and toddlers, by the way, nurse to sleep. 


So when we're talking about weaning, that's always the last sort of feeding to go, the daytime ones end up going maybe the middle of the night and going but the one to fall asleep for the first time at night, and the one to wake up when they wake up in the morning. Those are usually the last feeding sessions to go so completely developmentally normal. Okay, let's talk about the last one. I still don't know how this one is going around. It's like we're living in 50 years ago, I have no idea how this myth is still going around. And that's not to insult you. If you believed any of these myths. I just I'm so shocked that people keep perpetuating it because it's just so obviously wrong. But it's that you should stop breastfeeding when your baby gets teeth, or teething will somehow make breastfeeding impossible. 


You know, I did a podcast episode a couple episodes back on the American Academy of Pediatrics, and then finally, coming on board with supporting breastfeeding till two years and beyond. Now, I'm pretty sure we're all aware that once a child is two years old, they have several teeth in their mouth, right. So how are these children breastfeeding, if they have teeth, to new teeth can be scary to a nursing mom. And usually the reason for that is that people think that the baby is going to bite, some babies bite, some babies don't. But teeth in and of themselves should not cause any sort of breastfeeding discomfort. Now the reason for this is that their their tongue, your baby's tongue is extending over the lower gums where there are teeth, right, and that is protecting your breast tissue from feeling those teeth on the lower jaw, the upper teeth, you know the upper gums, they don't really make a lot of contact with the breast if the baby is latched correctly. 


So when I have moms who contact me and they're suddenly experiencing breastfeeding pain around the time that their children get teeth, then I usually take a look at what's going on with the infant's oral function or the last technique because something is going awry, you should not be able to feel the teeth when the baby is nursing. How often times we discover undiagnosed ties, that's very common. Sometimes it's really just a poor latch technique that's just never been corrected. And moms sort of dealt with it. Babies have just been sucking on the nipple, like it's a straw. And that's not going to be a strategy that keeps working once teeth come in. That's going to be very, very painful. So the other thing is that there's biting, right, and you know, some babies by again, some babies don't, really biting happen when the feeding is ended. So I think this is the part that people miss babies don't bite because they want to hurt you. 


They don't bite because they have a need to bite. Babies cannot bite you when they are actively nursing. So if milk is flowing, if they are working to get the milk flowing, if they are swallowing, your baby physically cannot bite you. But when your baby has done nursing, that letdown has slowed, it is a possibility that they will bite you. And there are many reasons for this. And so really, one is that teething changes your baby's jaw growth and development. So they can feel some jaw tension and some tightness that they are maybe trying to work through. And so sometimes that happens, you know, babies love teething toys for a reason, right? And that's to work on their phasic bite reflex and just to sort of exercise that jaw, that jaw going into a new position. It feels very different for them. So they're kind of getting used to this new form of anatomy. 


So teething toys are really great. I would encourage you to unlatch your baby. As soon as they're done nursing, remove them from their breast and give them like a teething toy. That would be a really great strategy just preemptively once you even notice the first teeth come in, so that way you avoid the habit of biting ever beginning. Sometimes when a baby bites, it gives you a very strong reaction because yeah, it's gonna hurt most of the time. Right? When you yell when you yell, that can do a couple of things. It could cause a nursing aversion you could scare your baby and they may not want to come back to the bras, which is super sad. You can get them back to the breast, but they may go on a nursing strike for a bit, it can also be a big reaction that is new for your baby. And they might want to experiment babies or experimenters, right, they, they kind of want to see stimulus and response. 


That's what their little baby brains are working through in this whole first year and beyond. So they did a stimulus, they got a response, they're gonna see if that same stimulus elicits the same response. If it does, it's a learning thing for them. But it's not necessarily a deterrent for them to do the behavior. If you are snapping at your baby, if you are yelling, if you are smacking them on the head, I have heard of this flicking their face. These are terrible things, please don't do that. That's really horrible. And you should not be creating harm to your baby in any way. I think that hopefully it goes without saying. But somehow these tips still get passed around, I see them quite frequently. Don't yell at your baby. Don't snap at them. Don't make an angry face. Anger never teaches us anything. 


Anger teaches us to avoid the person that we've angered, right? It doesn't teach us to change our behavior and go, Oh, my goodness, I must have done something wrong. I don't want this person to be angry at me. No, it makes us avoidant. So the best thing that you could do is just stay calm. And let your baby and gently say no. And that's it. You could maybe make a sad face, express some sadness, your baby doesn't want to make you feel sad. Sadness can create connection. Anger destroys connection. So you know, you can either get a baby who's entertained by your anger or who is put off by her anger. So don't use those strategies, please and just recognize that, you know, it could be a way of you're maybe getting attention to, let's say, every time you're nursing, you're on your phone, you're not making that connection with your baby, you're avoiding eye contact all of them, they might bite you so that they can get your attention. 


So put down the phone, pay attention to your baby. And if you're paying attention, you can see when the nursing session is over, when they stopped drinking milk, you can preemptively unlatch them, you can offer them a teething toy or something like that, so that you can avoid the biting altogether. But just because your baby gets teeth, just because they bite you does not mean that nursing needs to end, it just means that your nursing relationship has shifted into a new point. And that there's some different strategies that you need to employ. This is also very temporary. 


So if your baby gets their first tooth at six months, these are not strategies that you're typically going to find that you still need to use at nine months, because you've broken the habit or you've never let the habit form. And now you can just nurse normally, and you don't have to preemptively do all of these things your baby has learned. So I hope that that makes sense. So just to review, some of the things that we talked about in terms of myths, are you no one, you know that herbs don't work that your breasts get soggy because of breastfeeding, that your baby needs to stop breastfeeding once they get teeth, that you shouldn't nurse your baby to sleep or that breastfeeding is painful. 


So I'd be curious to hear from you after listening to this episode. You know, feel free to screenshot this episode posted on your Instagram Stories tag me send me a DM. Let me know if there was anything that you learned new from this episode or if you had thought some of these myths were true in the past. And if there are any other myths that you would love to see go away or be clarified. So maybe I can turn that into like another podcast episode if enough of you have some ideas of other myths that you've heard, that is still circulating out there that you're finding are really not conducive to breastfeeding. So thank you for listening. If you liked the episode, I would absolutely love for you to leave us a review over on Apple Podcasts or wherever you can leave a review that helps our podcasts get found for more listeners who are looking for some great breastfeeding content out there. So I will see you in the next episode. Thanks for listening and subscribing.