5 Misconceptions About Baby Feeding That Need To Be Debunked

by Cara Strickland

We all have our expectations about what parenthood will entail. Most of us probably don’t even realize it, it’s so ingrained in us. But when kids come into our lives and do what they do best — go off script — it can feel unexpectedly emotional. It can even feel like you’re failing at something you thought was going to be easy, or at the very least, natural.

Some of my biggest surprises about becoming a parent centered around food, starting with what it would look like to feed a newborn. But when it came time to start solids — and feed my child three meals a day plus snacks — the surprises didn’t end. I can’t count the number of times I wished I had a manual telling me what to expect, or an expert resource like ByHeart to help me through my many frantic feeding questions.

If you haven’t heard of it, ByHeart is a parent-founded company that just launched Cluster, a feeding support destination that lets parents connect with one another — and with experts — in real time. They’re also launching a cutting edge farm-to-(infant)formula product this fall, so look out for that! To add to the growing conversation about what works best for you and your baby, Romper teamed up with ByHeart to debunk the biggest misconceptions about feeding. Keep reading and take a deep breath — you’ve got this.

Misconception #1: Breastfeeding Is Always Possible

I questioned a lot of things during my pregnancy, but never my decision to breastfeed. There were giant posters about it on the walls of every doctor’s office I visited. I took a class on it at the hospital where I planned to deliver and dutifully took notes. But after my baby was born, it took three days of trying to feed her with very little success before we had to take her to the emergency room for dehydration and start formula. Talk about feeling like a failure.

In spite of that inauspicious beginning, I kept trying, meeting with a lactation consultant, pumping through the night, and supplementing with formula. There were people at the time who said it would work if I just tried harder, but I knew the truth: I was doing my best and it still wasn’t working. Making the unexpected switch to formula was emotional, but I knew it was allowing my daughter to get the nutrition she needed, which was really all that mattered.

For information and support when it comes to choosing the right route for you and your baby, check out the Feeding Decisions moment on Cluster.

Misconception #2: Pumping Is A Breeze

When I was still trying to breastfeed, I didn’t think twice about ordering a pump so that my husband could help with feedings. What I didn’t know then was that pumping itself is a new kind of skill, and every body is different. I had heard some people take to it easily, quickly getting ahead on their supply. But I soon learned that for others, it’s a bit of a struggle.

Once I was no longer attempting to nurse, I went back to the lactation consultant to help with pumping where I learned to massage while hooked up to the machine. I even rented a hospital-grade pump. Even with all of this effort, my body didn’t respond well to the pumps and a nasty bout of mastitis put an end to my attempts.

It’s so easy to be hard on yourself during this time, but if something similar happens to you, rest assured that it’s not because you aren’t trying hard enough. And when in doubt, you can connect with other parents experiencing the same challenges via Cluster’s Boob Drama moment.

Misconception #3: Breast Is Always Best

Most of us know the litany of reasons why breastmilk is amazing, and it is! I love how it changes (even hourly) based on the needs of the child, and how milk for a young baby is different than milk for an older child.

I think the danger can come in when we start to think that breastfeeding is always the best decision for a baby or a family. For so many women, struggles with breastfeeding can cause mental health issues, or they can exacerbate postpartum mood disorders, especially when a mother isn’t getting enough sleep. Some mothers may not have a job situation where pumping or nursing is possible, and quitting our 9-to-5 to dedicate more time to pumping isn’t an option for most.

I don’t think it takes anything away from the wonderful qualities of breastmilk and breastfeeding to acknowledge that it isn’t right for everyone, and that formula can be pretty miraculous, too. Whether you choose one or the other or a combination of the two, you’re giving your child your best, and that’s what’s most important.

In the midst of the pressures of providing nutrients for your little one, it can be easy to let self-care slide. The Taking Care of You moment on Cluster offers the resources you need to prioritize yourself, which in turn will make you a better caretaker.

Misconception #4: All Babies Are The Same

A friend of mine exclusively pumped with her first baby because she couldn’t get him to nurse. Her second child latched immediately and she was able to nurse her from day one. I have so many friends with one picky eater and one who eats everything. It’s so easy to think that kids, especially very small ones, haven’t quite grown into their personalities yet. But it sure seems like they are born with some of these traits already programmed. So if you’re struggling, don’t beat yourself up. Nurture is certainly important, but it isn’t the whole picture.

Misconception #5: Solids Solve Everything

When we finally graduated from formula, I was thrilled. I thought ‘real food’ would be a piece of cake. But it turns out that I wasn’t prepared for a healthy gag reflex to freak me out several times a day, and that my daughter had taste preferences I couldn’t predict or understand. She’s a lot like me, actually — sometimes I’m in the mood for one flavor, other times I prefer a totally different taste. I’m beginning to realize this is just the process of learning to eat: Sometimes it’s messy, oftentimes it’s unexpected, but I’m confident that we’ll figure it out sooner or later.