Breastfeeding is back in the news again. Perhaps you saw headlines about the Sports Illustrated model breastfeeding on the runway, a win for helping normalize what’s completely normal. On the other end of things, U.S. leaders are trying to water down language in a U.N. resolution to support breastfeeding.

Decades ago, doctors told women formula was better than breastmilk, and people veered away from breastfeeding. But we now know that nothing is better than what nature provides, and we encourage women who can breastfeed to do so. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and past that with the addition of complementary foods, for up to two years.  Breastfeeding can continue as long as mutually desired by both mother and baby. Although 80 percent of infants in the U.S. receive some breast milk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended. (Source: CDC.)

Worldwide, views on this are changing for the better. However, that doesn’t mean those who breastfeed don’t need continuous support. Figuring out how to breastfeed is a challenge for every new mother. Even once moms are past that stage, society doesn’t make it easy for them to find places to breastfeed. Not everyone feels comfortable doing so on a runway, after all, and that’s OK! Meanwhile, other mothers need support with the process; some struggle to produce enough milk, while others deal with mastitis, soreness, and other problems.

Generations Family Practice offers support. Dr. Ashley Wofford, in the process of obtaining her IBCLC, provides consultations for breastfeeding concerns for both mom and baby. Common reasons for a baby to be evaluated include slow weight gain, latch difficulty, concern for tongue tie, and possible milk protein allergy, to name a few. Mothers are frequently seen for concerns about low milk supply, oversupply, sore or cracked nipples, engorgement, and plugged ducts or mastitis. Dr. Wofford also addresses questions about medication use, pumping, breastmilk storage, and planning for a return to work.

Breastfeeding comes with plenty of myths, so here are some facts to clear things up.

1. Breastfeeding is healthy for mom and baby.

  • Breastfeeding can help protect babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, childhood leukemia, and diabetes.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma and eczema.
  • Children who are breastfed for at least six months are less likely to become obese or later develop type 2 diabetes
  • Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as reduced risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. These health benefits increase the longer a woman breastfeeds.
  • Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are not more difficult to wean. In fact, breastfeeding can be a wonderful tool to help toddlers calm down as they learn to cope with big emotions and feelings.

2. Breastfeeding is economical.

  • Families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200–$1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.
  • A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90% of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.
  • For both employers and employees, better infant health means fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children, and higher productivity.

3. Other Facts about Breastfeeding

  • The size of your breasts does not affect your ability to breastfeed.
  • You may be able to breastfeed even if you have had breast augmentation or reduction surgery. Whether you can depends on how the surgery was performed. Many surgeons today go through the armpit or under the breast tissue or chest muscle, which does not interfere with milk production.
  • Most foods are fine to eat while breastfeeding. You don’t have to eat only bland foods. Some people say to avoid cabbage, for example, because it makes your baby gassy. Take the wait-and-see approach before changing your diet. Spicy foods are OK, too!
  • You can nurse if you have a blocked duct or an infection. In fact, that’s the best way to clear up those problems!
  • You can still breastfeed (and pump) after going back to work, while you’re sick, and while taking some medications.
  • Breastfed babies will sleep through the night when they are ready, just like formula-fed babies.
  • Exercise does not make your milk sour.
  • Most medications are safe to use during breastfeeding. Never blindly accept advice to “pump & dump.”  Mommy Meds is an app that is an excellent evidence-based resource for medication safety.

The surgeon general has put several reports together and a call-to-action to support breastfeeding. The community needs to help by supporting it through groups, places for nursing mothers to breastfeed in public, and more. Read more in the Communities in Action paper. There are several organizations in the area that provide support groups, including Nursing Mothers of Raleigh. La Leche League, International, WakeMed Breastfeeding Support Groups and more. We always encourage new mothers who are breastfeeding to “find your tribe.”

We now offer FULL Lactation Consulting services! Contact us today for help!