There is an impression that more people know the ‘truths’ about breastfeeding than have actually nursed. Conventional wisdom may contain myths that affect decisions we take about breastfeeding. In this article, let us discuss eight most persistent breastfeeding myths and facts that will help you to find out what is true and what is not about breastfeeding.
Myth 1. Pain is Normal during Breastfeeding
Fact: Breast tenderness, especially in case of first-time moms, may cause some nipple soreness in the first few days of breastfeeding. However, prolonged soreness, cracked or bleeding nipples for longer periods may be an indicator that your baby is not latching well. Improper latching may lead to reduced milk supply, breast infections and, eventually, to early weaning. This is why it is important to understand and address the causes of nipple pain as early as possible. Read our article to learn more about how to prevent nipple pain.
Myth 2. Small Breasts Mean Less Milk
Fact: The size of a breast depends on the amount of fatty tissue in it. Fatty tissue is not involved in the production of breastmilk. Breastmilk is produced by mammary glands, and milk production and milk supply are determined by how often and well they are stimulated. Therefore, even big breasts that are not stimulated well will not produce enough milk. It is important to concentrate on nursing on demand and on your baby’s proper latch instead of focusing on the size of your breasts.
Myth 3. Frequent Nursing Means the Baby is Not Getting Enough
Fact: Most newborns nurse frequently and around the clock. That is absolutely normal if your baby is gaining well. Breastmilk is completely digested in 90 minutes. This is why breastfed newborns nurse more frequently than the formula-fed ones. On the other hand, nursing is not just about food, but also about warmth and closeness to mother. Your baby needs you as much as your milk.
Myth 4. Premature Babies Cannot Nurse
Fact: Babies born prematurely may be able to suckle well, a little or not at all. That will depend on a number of factors, including the weeks spent in the uterus. They will need more time to learn how to breastfeed, but if organized well, at some point they will start nursing as efficiently as full terms do. The best tips for moms of premature babies are to start pumping as soon as possible and to avoid using pacifiers and bottles. A certified lactation consultant may be of great help.
Myth 5. Preparing Your Nipples to Feed
Fact: Among breastfeeding myths and facts, this myth seems to hold water more than others do. The fact is that you do not need to wash your nipples before feedings. Unlike baby formula, breastmilk contains natural antibodies that actively protect the baby against infections. Washing your nipples with soap could remove natural protective oils and lead to cracked nipples.
Myth 6. Breastfeeding Women Cannot Get Pregnant
Fact: There is some truth behind this myth. “Lactational amenorrhea” is the temporary postnatal infertility that occurs when a woman’s periods have not started yet and she is fully breastfeeding. Chances of not getting pregnant are 98 percent, if the following conditions are met by a breastfeeding mother: (a) the baby is exclusively breastfed on demand (day-and-night), (b) the duration between feedings do not exceed 3 hours during the day and 4 hours at night, (c) less than 6 months have passed since delivery, and (d) periods have not resumed. Not all breastfeeding women meet above-mentioned conditions and cannot rely on breastfeeding solely to avoid new pregnancy.
Myth 7. You Cannot Nurse with a (Breast) Infection
Fact: There are very few cases when you cannot nurse your child. In the case of common infections like flu, mothers are advised to nurse their babies as much as possible. Breastmilk will transfer the antibodies made by the mom’s body to the child and will increase the baby’s immune response. Lactation consultants advise frequent nursing to open a blocked duct or to combat a breast infection. Remember, most drugs are compatible with breastfeeding, and the amounts transmitted to the baby through breastfeeding are usually below recommended pediatric dosage. When consulting to your doctor about your illness, inform about breastfeeding so he or she can prescribe a breastfeeding compatible drug.
Myth 8. Breastfeeding May Harm your Baby, if you are Pregnant
Fact. Pregnant women can continue breastfeeding if they wish to do so. Their breastmilk is NOT dangerous for the fetus or for the breastfed child. However, hormonal changes during pregnancy may affect the composition and taste of the breastmilk, and many children may dislike the breast milk and wean.
With the amount of information about breastfeeding available on the internet, you do not need to rely on conventional wisdom to make decisions. There are many breastfeeding support groups and online platforms to find the right response to your concerns. Perhaps, the only breastfeeding ‘wisdom’ that you may rely on is that almost all mothers can breastfeed they, children if they wish to do so.
Did any of the above myths affect your decisions about breastfeeding? How did you manage the situation? Are there more breastfeeding myths and facts that you would add to our list?