In my life, I have heard many myths about breastfeeding, and many of the myths recur. So I thought it might be interesting to review some of them!
Myth #1: Until my milk comes in, I should feed my newborn baby formula.
Fact: Breastfeeding works on the basic principles of supply and demand. The more often a mom nurses her baby, the more milk she will make. Also, the very first milk, although small in amount, is called colostrum, aka “liquid gold” as it is full of antibodies to help the baby fight infection. In the first few days, a newborn does not need a large volume of feedings. A baby is getting enough milk if having 4-5 wet diapers when 4-5 days old!
Myth #2: If I am taking medications, then it is not safe to breastfeed.
Fact: Most medications are safe to take during breastfeeding, but double check with your doctor about your specific medication. “Medications in Mother’s Milk” by Thomas Hale is a great resource.
Myth #3: If I am sick, then it is not safe to breastfeed.
Fact: If a mom is sick with a viral cold for example, then she will be making antibodies to fight this infection which she will also express in her breast milk. Nursing her baby will help the baby fight the infection too.
Myth #4: If I have mastitis, then I should not breastfeed.
Fact: The infection is in the breast tissue but not the milk or milk ducts. The breast milk is safe for baby to drink, and continuing breastfeeding helps the Mom’s infection heal faster.
Myth #5: I am expecting twins, and I will not have enough milk for my babies.
Fact: Because of the law of supply and demand, a Mom’s body can make enough milk to feed 2. Simultaneous “football” holds may be used to feed 2 at one time. Consult your lactation specialist if you plan to nurse twins.
Myth #6: I cannot breastfeed because I had a breast reduction or augmentation.
Fact: Although breast surgery (especially reduction as the total number of milk ducts are reduced) can interfere with milk production, it is fine for a new Mom to attempt breastfeeding. Remember that some breast milk is always better than none!
Myth #7: My nipples are inverted, so my baby will not be able to latch on properly.
Fact: Many women have flat or inverted nipples which may not necessarily interfere with a good latch. If there are issues, then a silicon nipple shield or a breast pump (it can be handheld and not the expensive electronic version) can be used to evert the nipple. If there are every any issues with latch or if breastfeeding is uncomfortable, then please consult your lactation specialist, nurse, or doctor.
Myth #8: Breastfeeding is dirty, nasty, not as nutritious as formula, etc.
Fact: I just want to remind all of us that the primary purpose of breasts is to provide perfect nutrition for our babies. I truly think that on a subconscious level that most men are attracted to breasts because they represent our ability to feed their offspring, but I diverge . . . The formula companies have been trying for decades to make a product as close to breast milk as possible but the goal keeps eluding them. In fact, we recently learned that moms excrete their own probiotics (as in whole live “good” bacteria which are important to our gut health) into their milk to help establish the correct flora in their baby’s gut. How cool!
Myth #9: I am adopting, so formula is my only option.
Fact: Interestingly, some moms who adopt a young baby are able to breastfeed, usually with some hormonal help. I have seen this happen a few times. For sure, consult a lactation specialist or doctor on this one. Go to: www.creatingafamily.org or www.adoption.com for more information.
Myth #10: My baby is born premature, so my milk will not come in.
Fact: My advice is to start pumping early, consult a lactation specialist and if all else fails then consider banked human milk. There are milk banks which rigorously test human milk, and we know that human milk can dramatically increase a premature baby’s change of survival. If you are one of the lucky moms with too much milk then please consider donating unused milk to a human milk bank. You might just save a baby’s life!
Myth #11: Breastfeeding is easy and should work perfectly for everyone.
Fact: This is my favorite as it personally caused me the most issues. Although breastfeeding can come easy and natural for some moms, for others (like myself) it was hard and a lot of work but definitely worth it!
Myth #12: I am returning to work in 6 weeks or 3 months, so why bother to breastfeed?
Fact: Any breast milk is better than no breast milk even if it is for a short time. But it is possible to work and breast feed, and we will discuss this further in my next blog.
Until then, think positive and be grateful for the beautiful ability to feed our babies! A good source to review is the AAP’s booklet “Breastfeeding Your Baby: Answers to Common Questions.” Female friends and family who have breastfed their babies are also a wealth of information.
*Dr. Kristie Clark is a pediatrician and mother in WaKeeney, Kansas