Top Ten Breastfeeding Myths
Misinformation abounds on the topic of breastfeeding. While many people quit for their own personal reasons, others wean prematurely and unnecessarily. Here are some reasons:
Myth #1: Breastfeeding is always super fun and awesome.
Facts: Breastfeeding is a relationship you have with your nursling. Sometimes it’s super fun and awesome, sometimes it’s filled with lots of love and joy, and sometimes it makes you want to scream and shout obscenities. And just like any relationship it can start out rocky and get better or start out good and deteriorate. It’s best to breastfeed only as long as both members of the pair desire to.
Myth #2: Babies should be breastfed on a strict schedule.
Facts: I’ve read many, many different stats on how long newborns should nurse for and how often they should nurse and none of them told the truth, which is: nearly constantly. Seriously. It’s absolutely crucial to the nursing relationship that babies be nursed “on cue.” Babies have the amazing ability to self-regulate their milk intake if nursed on cue and that ensures that you will continue to produce all the milk they need.
Myth #3: Breast milk is useless and devoid of nutrition after six months or one year.
Facts: Breast milk continues to be made the exact same way it was always made, so why would its beneficial properties suddenly become null and void? In fact, there are many proven health and emotional benefits gained by nursing into the toddler years including reduced risk of breast cancer for the mother and increased immune function for the child. Worldwide, babies are nursed for an average of 3.8 years, and many mammals traditionally nurse beyond infancy
Myth #4: Babies need formula until their mother’s milk comes in.
Facts: Breast milk normally “comes in” two to five days after the birth. But before then a woman’s breasts will produce this totally amazing super milk called colostrum. Colostrum is rich and thick with tons of nutrients, antibodies, and calories. It is perfect for your newborn. Production of milk gradually increases after birth, as your baby’s stomach size increases. The colostrum gradually turns into mature milk. When babies are born their stomachs are teenie tiny! About the size of a marble, in fact. And, for most babies who are successfully latching on, formula is completely unnecessary. If you are birthing in a hospital, let it be widely known that you don’t want your baby to be given any artificial nipple, pacifiers, or breast milk substitutes. Many women tape signs to their child’s bassinets and add this information to their birth plan.
Myth #5: The amount of milk you can pump is indicative of your milk supply.
Facts: Breast pumps cannot remove milk as effectively from the breast as a nursling can. The amount of milk the pump can remove varies wildly among women. Some women will have an overabundant milk supply, but will barely be able to get an ounce when they pump. A normal amount to pump in one pumping is one half to 2 ounces (both breasts pumped). It is normal for a woman to have to pump multiple times to get enough for one feeding. Other women can pump upwards of 8 ounces in one sitting. If you are pumping and not getting much, but your baby is gaining well otherwise and having enough wet and poopy diapers, relax. Your body knows how much milk your baby needs.
Myth #6: If you have a drink, you should “pump and dump.”
Contrary to popular opinion, pumping after drinking does nothing to speed the elimination of alcohol from breast milk. The percentage of alcohol in your breast milk is the same as your blood alcohol level, so the amount of alcohol is miniscule if you’ve only had a few drinks. The only reason to pump is if you’re missing a feeding, to keep your milk supply up. Alcohol peaks in breast milk about 1/2 to 1 hour after drinking, and leaves the breast milk as it leaves the bloodstream. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 to 2 drinks are not harmful to a nursing baby and alcohol is classified as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding.”
Myth #7: If it hurts, you’re doing something wrong.
This is controversial, as many people will say that if your baby is latched on properly, it shouldn’t hurt. While in theory that might be true, newborns nurse a lot. Most women probably have had that much action on their nipples, ever. So for many mothers, there is a “breaking-in” period of a couple of a few days or a week, where their nipples will be tender and sore. This is not to say that bad latch doesn’t happen. A certified lactation consultant should be able to tell the difference.
Myth #8: Doctors know everything when it comes to breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. While there are many doctors out there who have made it a priority to learn about breastfeeding and its benefits, there are many out there who are offering misinformed, scientifically out-of-date or unsupported information. Many doctors are not even trained on breastfeeding. If your doctor suggests supplementing with formula or weaning, be very skeptical. Get a second opinion from a lactation consultant or another doctor. There are very few medical reasons to wean completely from the breast, even when supplementation is necessary. Supplementation is often not necessary when breastfeeding problems can be identified and solutions found. Many medications are safe to use while breastfeeding. Ask your doctor to consult Hale’s Breastfeeding and Mother’s Milk, which is considered the number one resource for determining whether a medicine safe while breastfeeding. Here is a good guide to determining if your healthcare provider is supportive and knowledgeable about breastfeeding.
Myth #9: Nipple confusion isn’t real.
While some babies will have no problem discerning the breast from the bottle from the pacifier and will go between with ease, other babies have serious problems that can lead to premature weaning. While many people choose not to use a pacifier or bottle at all, others choose to or have to due to circumstances beyond their control. When deciding whether or not to introduce artificial nipple, there are good guidelines to follow to minimize the risk of nipple confusion/preference.
Myth #10: When you’re milk dries up, it’s gone forever.
Many women are actually capable of producing milk or increasing a low supply due to extended time away from their baby. It is called relactation, and although it is not for all mothers, with a little effort mothers who desire to can produce milk again.
Jack Newman is one of the leading experts in breastfeeding research, here are some more myths he dispells.
More Breastfeeding Resources:
La Leche League
Dr. Jack Newman
Were you given misinformation about breastfeeding? Comment below and share your experience.