Most of these experienced moms are well-intentioned; they believe what they heard or read somewhere and are just passing it along to be helpful. Or perhaps they did "verify" their information... but they were looking at a non-scientific, biased source. Either way, there are quite a few Mommy Myths floating around out there that simply aren't true. Here are five of them:
1. Getting an epidural increases your chance of having a c-section.
I give myself a pass for having believed this one because it does seem to make a lot of sense. If you're able to get up and walk around throughout labor, and try out different pushing positions, wouldn't that make your pushes stronger? Or wouldn't an epidural make them weaker? Or something?
As it turns out, there is no dispute that once you hit 4 cm dilation, an epidural doesn't increase your chance of having a c-section. Here's a brief overview of the "gold standard" on this topic, a 124-page meta analysis (meaning, a study of studies - in this case, a study of 38 other studies). It came out in December of 2011 and was provided to me by a friend who holds an MD and a PhD in anesthesiology; I wish I could provide you with the full text but I'd be infringing copyright. My friend's career will be anesthesiology research and Harvard wanted him for residency, and he's a super nice guy. And he was looking into this for his pregnant wife - who did get an epidural - that makes him my gold standard.
It is also not clear that epidurals have any impact on your chance of successful breastfeeding. But that's too nebulous to really be a complete "myth."
Please see my own comment to this post, below; I am not arguing that there is no benefit whatsoever to not getting an epidural, I am simply dispelling the myth that you increase your chance of a c-section by doing so; you don't.
2. You must have a supply issue if [insert any number of things].
You must have a supply issue if (a) your child loses interest in nursing before turning two (or three... or thirty); (b) your child starts sleeping through the night (better wake up anyway ... and pump!); (c) Your boobs feel flat; (d) you don't get much when you pump; (e) your child ever cries ...
Nope. The truth is that the only way to tell you have a supply issue is if your baby stops gaining or starts losing weight. With both my babies I went through phases of being positive I had major supply issues... my breasts felt totally flat, I only got 1-2 ounces when I pumped (even if it was time for a feeding), and my child was only nursing 1-3 minutes per side, 3-4x/day, and not at night. But thanks to KellyMom I just kept on keeping on and I nursed both babies, waxing and waning (probably depending on their growth spurts) until about 15 months. At that point they lost interest. Even in the morning, which was the only time of day it actually was clear that I had some milk.
It's strange to me that many of the people who so strongly believe that almost all moms are capable of exclusively breastfeeding their babies are also hyper-obsessive about supply maintenance...
3. Inductions should be avoided at all costs; your OB is only trying to up her chances of a lucrative c-section!
When I got to be 38 weeks along and my OB wanted to schedule an induction for 41 weeks, I knew just where to go for some "real" medical advice: My local mommy list serve, of course! I asked, and I read the archives, and it didn't take me long to find plenty of threads amounting to "I learned in my 'natural childbirth' class that you should almost never allow induction" and "my midwife says inducing before 42 weeks increases your chance of c-section" etc. Now there was one comment by a mom saying that she pushed her OB to wait until 42 weeks and it backfired, since by then her baby was too big to deliver vaginally. But I discounted her opinion since everybody knows that the size of the baby doesn't matter, duh!
But seriously, I was completely distraught; did I need to find an OB or switch to a midwife this late in the game? Would my insurance even cover that?? It's humorous in retrospect but it was downright miserable at the time. Thankfully my (physician) husband was able to research the issue for me... and find that induction at 41 weeks does not increase your chance of c-section like earlier inductions do - and in fact, it's safer than waiting! This is presumably because having a macrosomic baby (8 lbs 13 ounces or more) actually does double your chance of a c-section - along with other complications - and your baby is only getting bigger the longer he cooks. I never did need that induction, but when my OB told me she was impressed that my macrosomic son came out vaginally (he was 9 lbs 10 oz, 99th/100th percentile head ... and I'm 5'3" and petite; he was delivered with forceps assistance) I secretly thought she was just saying that to pad my ego or something. Because at that point, I still knew that "the size of the baby doesn't matter."
You can click here for a list of 124 peer-reviewed studies on Fetal Macrosomia. Or click here for an excellent article by a renowned obstetrician that will probably clear up some other misconceptions you might have, too. If you've seen "The Business of Being Born," click here and here.
|Actually, size does matter. This was me somewhere around 40 weeks with my first.|
(Please, I beg you: Ignore the shoes).
|After laboring at home for 15 hours overnight, I looooOOOooved me some epidural!|
4. If you're doing it right, nursing shouldn't hurt.
Being the ever-diligent, slightly-crunchy mom that I was, I obviously signed up for a breastfeeding prep course taught by a Certified Lactation Consultant ("CLC"). Adorably, my husband even came with. There, I learned that breastfeeding was nothing but dreamy - unless you were doing it wrong. No problem, how could I possibly do it wrong after learning about something so "natural" for three solid hours ... to the tune of $70.00??
Fast-forward to the birth of my son. Nursing in the hospital was pain free and my milk came in right away. My son was a great nurser and the only problem was getting myself positioned in a way that wasn't excruciatingly painful to the nether-regions that delivered him. All the nurses were so impressed, one even told me that "my problems [with delivering a huge baby] were ending, right when all the problems usually begin."
Then I got home. And holy MOLY did it start to hurt. It hurt so badly that I walked around for days - weeks even - in a nursing tank with the flap pulled down. I even answered the door that way, it was so second-nature to me (thank God it was a female neighbor). People: I flashed my father-in-law. There were lotions and soothies and "airing out" and everything else I could possibly think of or get my hands on. I called pretty much every other mom I knew, even though I am a professed phone-hater. The worst part was, I lost a lot of the intense bliss I was otherwise feeling and a lot of the family time I'd have had on my husband's 2-week paternity leave (which was pretty much the last time I ever saw him awake until residency was over) frantically trying to figure out "what I was doing wrong" - because I was so worried that I was sabotaging my nursing. I watched youtube videos, I googled, I emailed, I even drove to a friend's house to show her my nipples, and I went all over town to "nurse teach-ins" with CLCs. At the nurse "teach-ins" all I got was further confirmation that it shouldn't hurt, and the suggestion that my son was likely tongue-tied ... so I had better set up a private consult, stat!
I was on the verge of caving even though we could not afford a private consult at the time when I thankfully asked my son's pediatrician about it. In under 10 seconds he gave me the best advice I'd yet received. He said "I really think there's too much 'dogma' out there about nursing; The proof is in the pudding, and he's clearly getting plenty of milk." Then my own OB gave me a script for APNO (a prescription nipple ointment for nursing - that was never once mentioned in my $70 CLC class) and it rocked my world. As it turns out, I was doing it right all along - it just still hurt like a mother! (no pun intended). And it hurt even more with my second born! Maybe because she was born tiny (6 lbs 10 oz) and gained weight at lightening speed? The postpartum hospital nurses and the hospital CLC were all scratching their heads about why my nipples were so torn up. I nursed through all the pain and nasty scabbing, and some thrush, and eventually it all came along. I've always had really sensitive skin.
My experience made me really skeptical of some CLCs: Pay lots of money to learn about nursing, learn that it shouldn't hurt, when it hurts, be told to pay more money for a private consult. I have no doubt that there are amazing CLCs out there doing a world of good for new moms, but my particular experience seemed kind of like a racket. And my dad told me that over the course of his (40-year) career as a pediatrician, he's found the lactation world a bit "trendy." For example, he said tongue tie is the current hot ticket, whereas it was all but unheard of until recently - and so now he's gets lots of patients who have been told their child has or might have a tongue-tie, where that's clearly not the case.
And so yeah, vulgarity aside I pretty much completely agree with this Jezebel article: Far from blissful, nursing is often excruciating. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
5. Any of this really matters.
It's really easy as a new mom to get all wrapped up in the first few parenting choices we make. You're overwhelmed with the newness of being responsible for another human being, and you want to get it right. Plus, there's an enticing sense of "safety" in every decision you can convince yourself is monumental. "Well, I don't have to worry about obesity/ADHD/allergies because I did X, and 'studies' show that X blah blah blah blah blah."
But the truth is that ten years from now we'll hardly remember or care about fleeting things like whether we birthed vaginally (well, unless we're still peeing when we cough) or even whether we nursed. By then, we'll have made approximately 1.3 billion other parenting decisions; parenting is decision-making, it's hundreds of mostly small decisions day by day and hour by hour, and even minute by minute, that add up to your relationship with your child.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't be proud of the struggles and sacrifices made for your baby, whatever they may be; I am, and you should be too. But if you do find that new-mom stress is getting to you, it might help to envision that fast-forward button for some perspective. Ask yourself whether you ever suspected that the success of an adult you admire was due in any part to having been born vaginally. Query whether you've ever watched someone accept an award and thought "That's totally because his mother nursed him the full twelve months." And if your grown son needs therapy one day, do you think it will have anything to do with exactly when and how you introduced solids - or even whether you circumcised? These baby-days might seem the be-all, end-all but in reality they fade quickly as our children grow and develop. At that point, it becomes obvious what really matters: How we raise our children and how we love them - in other words, how we parent (not how we birth). The memories we make with them. How we function as a family. And who we are - who we model for our children to be.
This super boring video shows all you need to be an amazing mom: Love. That's it.