The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
Read more »
Belief: Breastfeeding seems so outdated and primitive. It just makes me uncomfortable.
Reality Check: Our society has become so sanitized that many women are not used to seeing babies being breastfed.
Throughout most of the world, breastfeeding is the primary method of feeding infants. “And it has been since the dawn of time,” Wilwerding says. In America, however, nursing is not necessarily the norm. Some experts theorize that this is the result of our heritage of modesty; or it may stem from the notion that nursing is inconvenient. So what’s the solution? “Breastfeeding should be promoted as normal behavior in our country,” Wilwerding says. “Then it won’t seem weird.”
Puppies get dog milk, kittens get cat milk. How, then, can we deem it strange when human babies drink human milk? “What’s strange is taking milk that was made for baby cows, chemically altering it, sticking it in a container designed to imitate a breast and marketing it to the point that everyone thinks it’s normal,” Rothenberg says.
Belief: My breasts are too small to produce enough milk for my baby.
Reality Check: There is no correlation between breast size and milk production.
First, size is determined by the amount of fat tissue in your breasts, not by the number of milk ducts you have (which is where the milk is produced). Second, the volume of your milk supply is determined by your baby’s needs: The more your infant nurses, the more milk you will make. “The biggest factor that determines milk supply is demand,” Rothenberg explains. “Frequent, on-demand feedings are the best way to ensure that you make as much milk as your baby needs.”
Belief: I’m going back to work in a few weeks, so I may as well not bother breastfeeding.
Reality Check: Returning to your job doesn’t mean you have to wean your baby.
Many women continue breastfeeding once they return to their jobs; it’s a simple matter of using a breast pump to express their milk while they’re at work, then having their caregiver feed the milk to the baby the next day.
If pumping isn’t possible, consider giving your baby breast milk and formula. “A baby who gets mom’s milk at night and in the morning is still getting some of the benefits and is likely to be healthier than a baby who is only formula-fed,” Rothenberg says. If this before- and after-work nursing schedule won’t work for you, at least breastfeed during your maternity leave—the early antibodies and nutrients will provide your baby with a good start in life. Bottom line: Some breast milk is better than none.