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2023-11-12 20:56:08

12 Myths About Breastfeeding (And the Truth Behind Them)

All breastfeeding mothers need to do is a quick Google search, and they're going to run into myths, misconceptions, and misinformation about producing breast milk. In this article, we're covering some of the most common myths about breastfeeding and what nursing mothers need to know!

12 Common Breastfeeding Myths

Let's separate fact from fiction. These breastfeeding myths need to go.

1. It's Normal for Breastfeeding to Hurt

There's a learning curve for breastfeeding, and in the beginning, discomfort is common.

However, as new moms learn how to position and angle the baby, and also how to ensure the baby is properly latched on, that discomfort could improve or subside.

New mom breastfeeding her baby

If you're breastfeeding and still experiencing pain, a lactation counselor can help guide you. Many women try different products to help with nipple pain. A nipple shield can aid you, and there are creams and ointments that can help your skin heal.

Want more insight into your lactation health? Check out eNational Testing's Complete Women's Health Panel.

2. As a Nursing Mother, You Shouldn't Eat Spicy Foods

This may be true but not necessarily.

First and foremost, eating a nutrient-dense and balanced diet is what matters most.

Secondly, remember that the baby is exposed to the mother's diet from the very beginning. If you notice that a certain food impacts your nursing baby or your milk production, then you might want to stop consuming it until you can talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant.

However, if you and your baby don't mind spicy foods (how about those pregnancy cravings you had, right?), then you're probably safe to enjoy them.

3. Breast is Best — End of Story

False! Fed is best.

Do breastfed babies enjoy unique health benefits? Yes. Interestingly, research suggests that breastfeeding leaves babies at a reduced risk of ear infections and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), among other health benefits

Does that mean that formula-fed babies are automatically unhealthy? Not at all.

Some women opt for formula instead of breast milk

Some women practice exclusive breastfeeding. Others combine breastfeeding with formula. And others might only use formula, whether it's because of personal preference or maybe difficulty with their milk production.

The truth is that your newborn can be perfectly healthy even if they aren't a breastfed baby.

4. If You're Sick, You Should Stop Breastfeeding

Are there certain instances when you might need to temporarily stop breastfeeding? Sure.

However, most of the time, breast milk is still safe and you can feed your baby as normal.

In fact, in a fascinating twist, when you're sick, the antibodies you make to fight that illness are passed on to your baby, building their immune protection. Aren't our bodies incredible?

If you're ill or dealing with a health complication and you're not sure if you can continue breastfeeding, ask your healthcare provider if you should stop nursing.

Woman breastfeeding her son

5. Breastfeeding Should Come Naturally to All Nursing Moms

Some mothers experience no issues with milk production or breastfeeding. Others might struggle with their milk supply, getting their baby to latch on, or frequent feedings in the middle of the night. They might need more breast stimulation or more frequently deal with blocked milk ducts, making it harder to express milk.

Breastfeeding might be easy for one woman and incredibly challenging for another.

If you choose to feed your baby in another way aside from breast milk, know that this doesn't make you a bad mom! Many mothers choose to explore their options or combine breastfeeding with bottle-feeding or formula.

6. You Should Clean Yourself Before Breastfeeding Your New Baby

This is understandable! After all, you wouldn't want your baby to pick up any germs from breastfeeding, right?

However, cleaning yourself before breastfeeding simply isn't necessary. Remember, your baby has already lived inside of you for about nine months. They are already very familiar with your body.

And, similar to what we discussed earlier about passing on antibodies, you're also giving your baby good bacteria when they breastfeed.

7. If You Start Taking Birth Control, it's Going to Hurt Your Milk Supply

While this is possible, it's not quite that simple and warrants more discussion.

To be more specific, birth control that is higher in estrogen might reduce your milk supply, although it doesn't happen for all women.

Plus, if you have a very steady milk supply, a slight reduction might not even impact your breastfeeding habits.

This is a great question for your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant, so speak with them before starting to take any contraceptives while breastfeeding your baby!

8. You Can Never Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding

To eliminate the risk of alcohol exposure for your baby, the best thing you can do is refrain from drinking alcohol completely as long as you're breastfeeding.

That said, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that one drink per day — meaning a single serving of alcohol (12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor) — can be safe as long as you wait at least two hours after consuming that drink to start breastfeeding again.

And of course, if you have more than one drink, you need to wait longer before you continue breastfeeding your baby.

9. Your Body Won't Make Enough Milk Right After Birth

The first breast milk that your body produces is called colostrum, AKA "liquid gold." It has this special name because it's full of wonderfully healthy nutrients to help our newborn babies.

Because there isn't a ton of colostrum in those first few days, many women think this means that they won't be able to produce breast milk in sufficient quantities down the line.

Don't panic — this is normal! It's enough liquid gold to keep babies satiated. It's also going to help build up your breast milk production so that you'll be able to give your baby enough milk over time.

10. If You Have Small Breasts, You Won't Produce Enough Milk

Perhaps ironically, your breast size has nothing to do with whether or not you'll produce enough milk for your baby. Women with small breasts can produce as much milk for their babies as women with larger breasts!

Rest assured that breast size isn't indicative of what your breastfeeding journey will look like, and even small-breasted women can produce enough milk for their little ones.

Woman breastfeeding in bed with her family

11. If You've Had Breast Surgery, You Can't Produce Breast Milk

Again, this answer is more complicated.

If you have breast implants or underwent a breast reduction, there's a very high likelihood that you can still produce breast milk for your baby.

However, some types of breast surgery involve incisions that interfere with breastfeeding and can stop you from producing a full milk supply.

12. Once Your Baby is Eating Solid Foods, You Shouldn't Breastfeed

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding babies for two years and even longer — as long as the mom and baby are both happy.

However, most babies are able to start eating solid foods around six to nine months of age.

This means that the ability to eat solids doesn't mean you can't keep giving your baby breast milk. In fact, you should!

Breastfeeding is a Personal Experience

One woman might breastfeed differently from the next... or, she might not breastfeed at all.

If you choose to breastfeed, and how you go about breastfeeding, is a personal choice you should make. Of course, do it under the guidance of a lactation counselor or your healthcare provider. They will help you breastfeed successfully — or, if breastfeeding isn't an option or the route you want to take, they will help you explore other options that make both you and your baby happy.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might like learning about how to support healthy fertility.