Every new mom is bombarded with tips and opinions on how to care for their baby, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. While your friends and family (and sometimes even strangers) may mean well, they don’t always have the best advice. Here are the top 20 myths that many breastfeeding moms may hear.
1. Breastfeeding prevents you from getting pregnant.
Truth: While breastfeeding, your body produces more of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production. This can interfere with the hormones that are necessary to get pregnant (progesterone and estrogen). Prolactin suppresses estrogen, which can keep you from ovulating. If you aren’t ovulating, you can’t conceive. Using breastfeeding as a from of a birth control is called Lactational Amenorrhoea Method (LAM), and while experts agree that it can be 98 percent effective, it has some guidelines that you must fall under.
- Your baby must be under 6 months old.
- You must exclusively breastfeed on demand night and day, meaning no pacifiers or bottles.
- Your periods have not returned yet.
Even when these things apply to you, it’s not a reliable form of birth control. Women get pregnant while breastfeeding all the time, even when their period hasn’t returned yet. A woman can be ovulating without her knowledge, before she even gets a period. If you don’t want to have another baby, you should talk to your doctor about what options will work best for you.
2. Breastfeeding should never hurt.
Truth: While it’s true that pain during breastfeeding can be indicative of a problem with your baby’s latch, hearing that breastfeeding should never hurt is not accurate. Hearing this can discourage new mothers who don’t understand why they’re in so much pain at the start of their breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding can and does hurt sometimes, especially in the beginning, and it doesn’t always point to a problem with your baby’s latch. Your nipples most likely aren’t used to being messed with for hours every day, for days on end. So right after your baby is born, yes, it most likely will hurt for a while. Even once your nipples seem to be “used to it”, there will be times when they’re more tender or sore if your baby is cluster feeding, or if your hormones fluctuate. However, if the pain never subsides or you find yourself in excruciating pain, contact your doctor or a lactation consultant. Your baby could have a tongue or lip tie, or you could have developed an infection, such as thrush. But a little soreness is completely normal, so try not to worry and know that it won’t last forever. Soon enough you’ll be sleeping through feedings!
3. If your breasts don’t feel full, your supply is low.
Truth: The full feeling in your breasts is not directly linked to how much milk your making. If you once used to feel full and leak milk frequently, and suddenly you’re not, this does not mean you’re supply has lowered. The more likely cause is that your supply has regulated. Don’t worry if they feel “empty”, there’s still enough milk in there!
4. Many Moms don’t produce enough milk for their baby.
Truth: The amount of mothers that really aren’t able to produce enough milk is closer to 1-2%. Most moms can produce more than enough milk for their babies. Low milk production is usually due to a lack of stimulation in the breasts from nursing or pumping. If a baby isn’t getting a sufficient amount of milk, it probably isn’t because the mother isn’t producing enough, but because the baby hasn’t been able to latch on to the breast properly. The milk is there, the baby just isn’t getting it. If you find that your milk is drying up, it is most likely due to a lack of removing milk from your breasts consistently, either from nursing or pumping, and not because your body just isn’t producing enough. You will continue to make milk as long as you consistently and effectively nurse or pump.
5. If babies feed frequently, they’re not getting enough milk.
Truth: If your baby seems to be attached to you for a ridiculous amount of time, it doesn’t mean she’s not getting enough milk. There are a few reasons they might be eating more, including a growth spurt or cluster feeding. If you’re worried about not making enough milk because she suddenly starts eating way more than usual, you can rest easy knowing that your body will make as much as she needs. When your baby eats, they’re sending messages to your body to produce more milk. That’s part of the reason babies cluster feed. Your body will keep up.
6. Taking a break or “rest” from breastfeeding helps you produce more milk.
Truth: When you skip a session, you may notice that you produce extra milk the next time you feed or pump. This doesn’t mean your body will make more milk if you go skipping feeding sessions, and you shouldn’t “let it build up”. When you skip feedings like that, your telling your boobs that they don’t need to make as much milk. That’s such an important part of breastfeeding. You need to remove milk (either by nursing, pumping or hand expression) consistently every day, or your supply will suffer. The more you remove, the more you will produce. You may get a little extra milk at the time, but you will quickly notice your body adjust to the change, and you won’t make as much the next day.
7. When your baby turns 3 months old, you need to give them rice cereal in their bottles to help fill them up.
Truth: This is just plain false. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for the first 6 months. Even when you add solid foods to your baby’s diet, continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months. Giving them cereal in a bottle, or even on a spoon when they aren’t developmentally ready, increases the likelihood that they will aspirate the mixture into their lungs. It also makes it more likely that you will overfeed your baby. They instinctively know how much milk or formula to drink, but when you add cereal, it throws them off. They eat according to volume, not calories.
8. After 6 months your milk isn’t enough for your baby, and you need to supplement with other types of milk.
Truth: Again, just plain false. Your milk doesn’t “go bad” or stop being nutritional for your baby after 6 months. There’s absolutely no reason to switch to formula or any other type of milk at that point. In fact, you don’t want to feed your baby cows milk until they’re at least 12 months of age, as their digestive system isn’t mature enough to handle the higher concentration of minerals and protein. Your breastmilk has the perfect amount of nutrients for your baby.
9. If you have small breasts, you won’t produce enough milk.
Truth: There is no correlation between breast size and milk production. Women with small breasts can produce just as much as women with larger breasts.
10. If you give your baby bottles, he’ll get confused and stop eating.
Truth: You can go back and forth between breast and bottle feeding with no issues, as long as you practice paced feeding. Your baby won’t get confused. Sometimes babies get used to the fast flow of a bottle nipple and will get frustrated when they’re breastfed since it takes longer to get a letdown, but there’s no confusion, and it’s nothing that you can’t teach your baby to accept again. If you practice paced feeding and you slowly introduce just a bottle or two a day, you shouldn’t have any problems. The best time to introduce bottles is between 2-6 weeks old, because some babies will refuse a bottle when they get too used to exclusively breastfeeding. To learn more, read my article on The Importance of Paced Feeding.
11. Your boobs will forever be saggy after breastfeeding.
Truth: Your breasts might be different than they were before you got pregnant, but you’re not destined to tuck your boobs into your socks every morning. Just like with stretch marks, it has more to do with genetics and other factors like age and weight gain. It’s not a guarantee that your boobs will be sad forever. The fatty parts of your boobies will return shortly after weaning. Also, the changes in your breasts are likely from pregnancy, not breastfeeding.
12. You must avoid spicy foods while breastfeeding.
Truth: What you eat is broken down and if anything passes through your milk, it’s such a tiny, minuscule amount that most of the time it won’t even matter. If your baby has a sensitivity to something you eat, like dairy or soy, that’s completely different and very real. You should talk to your doctor if you suspect your baby might be allergic to something you’re eating. But as for spicy foods, or anything with a lot of flavor, go for it! It won’t make your breastmilk unsafe. If you notice your baby is fussy or has diarrhea, you can try avoiding whatever it was that you ate and see if it clears up. But unless he shows signs of being allergic to something you’re eating, there’s no reason to automatically avoid certain foods simply because you’re breastfeeding.
13. A breastfed baby won’t sleep through the night until they start eating solids.
Truth: Some babies sleep through the night, some don’t, whether they’re given solids or not. It has a lot to do with the habits you set up for your baby and the sleep training (if any) that you’re practicing, as well as their individual personality, NOT with how full your baby is. Many babies sleep through most of the night at just a few months old, and many never sleep through until childhood. If you’re interested in helping set up an environment that will help your baby sleep more at night, read my article on Gentle Sleep Training, Without Crying It Out.
14. You shouldn’t nurse if you have a clogged duct or a breast infection.
Truth: The exact opposite is true, actually. You want to work out any blockages, and the only way to do that is to get the milk out through nursing or pumping. It won’t hurt your baby! Feed away, it will give you some relief.
15. Never wake a sleeping baby to eat.
Truth: Babies and children thrive on routine. Obviously, you don’t have to be super strict with their feeding times (unless you want to be), but if you feel like it’s been too long since they’ve eaten, you may be right, and waking them to eat is not a bad thing at all. Same goes the other way. If you feel like your baby is getting enough to eat, and they want to take an extra long nap, you don’t necessarily have to wake them up either. If you suspect your baby might not be getting enough milk, check with your doctor to be safe.
16. Since your milk doesn’t come in for a few days after birth, you have to supplement with donated breastmilk or formula.
Truth: Some hospitals will tell you that you have to supplement with formula or donated breastmilk until your milk comes in a few days after birth. What? No, don’t worry. You produce colostrum for the first few days, which is exactly what your baby needs. Of course there are exceptions, but assuming that everything is fairly average with your baby and the delivery, your colostrum is enough, and there’s no reason to supplement.
17. You need to nurse every 2 hours on the dot in order for your baby to get enough milk.
Truth: When your baby is first born, you want to try your best to feed every 2 hours to establish your milk supply, but once your milk comes in and is regulated, it’s ok for your baby to go longer stretches of time without eating. The older they get, the bigger their stomachs are, the more they can hold at once, and the less frequently they have to nurse. If they’re hungry, they’ll let you know.
18. You have to stop breastfeeding when you’re sick.
Truth: No, breastfeed on! The antibodies in your milk will actually help protect your little one from your cold. Just make sure to wash your hands.
19. You must feed your baby from both breasts at every feeding time.
Truth: It’s more important to let your baby finish emptying the breast they’re latched on to, and then if they’re still hungry, let them feed on the other one. If you switch your baby before the first breast is emptied, they’re missing out on the important, fatty hindmilk, and instead getting full on the lower-calorie foremilk, which can lead to poor weight gain and a fussy, unsatisfied baby. To ensure that your produce a (mostly) even amount from each breast, you want to make sure they nurse from each side an equal amount, but it doesn’t have to be at every feeding. Just start them on the other breast at the next feeding.
20. Formula is almost the same as breastmilk.
Truth: It’s just not the same. This isn’t meant to shame any Mamas out there who choose to use formula instead of breastfeed (I supplemented with formula since my son was born, and switched to formula completely by the time he turned 9 months old). But they’re hardly comparable. Breast milk is tailored to suit your baby’s individual needs at any given time. If they’re starting to get a cold, your breastmilk will contain more antibodies to help them fight the virus. Your milk’s fat content will vary depending on how much your baby needs. The ingredients in breastmilk are living, while formula only has non-living ingredients like aluminum and iron. There are just so many benefits involved with breastfeeding, so if that’s the motivation you need to continue, don’t let others tell you formula is almost the same thing.
There you have it! Those are the top 20 breastfeeding myths I’ve come across. I’d love to hear from you! What are some myths you’ve heard about breastfeeding? Comment below!