Common Breastfeeding Myths
The subject of breastfeeding may be one of the most mythologized topics around. Since the beginning of time, women have passed on their knowledge and ideas about breastfeeding from generation to generation. While this has helped us to accumulate a great wealth of accurate information and know-how, it has also encouraged the spread of a great many incorrect beliefs, superstitions and "old wives' tales" about breastfeeding. The problem with breastfeeding myths is that women who believe in them can end up feeling inadequate because their babies do not breastfeed in the way they are expected to. Some women even give up breastfeeding because they think it's not working, but actually, their expectations of breastfeeding are the real cause of the problem!
No matter what your age, race, religion, or the attitude of your society to breastfeeding, it's likely that you've heard some truths and some untruths about this subject. If someone gives you breastfeeding advice which seems unnatural or unhelpful, you should investigate it - talk to your doctor. Below, we've compiled a list of ten of the most common breastfeeding myths, to help you decide which ideas you should take seriously and which you shouldn't!
Ten Of The Most Common Myths...
Myth 1: Breastfeeding is supposed to be painful! This is simply not true. Many women find that breastfeeding does hurt, but that's not the way it's supposed to be. If breastfeeding is still hurting your nipples after the first three or four days, it's probably because your baby isn't latching on properly to your breast. Painful breastfeeding shouldn't be ignored or accepted, it can be overcome - speak to your doctor or better still, a doula, for advice.
Myth 2: Many women don't produce enough milk. Not true! Most women are capable of producing even more milk than their baby actually needs. The problem is most likely not with milk production but with the baby getting access to the milk. He may not be latching on properly or something else is not right - are you holding him in the correct position, for example?
Myth 3: Bottle feeding is easier than breastfeeding. Many women, especially working mothers, believe that bottle feeding gives them freedom and enables them to get on with their lives while still caring for their newborn. Each women has the right to make her own personal choice, but don't be intimated by breastfeeding. With the right education and advice, breastfeeding can be a lot more convenient than bottle feeding; you don't have to worry about preparing formula or sterilizing bottles, for example - and you always have the necessary equipment with you - wherever you go!
Myth 4: Breast-fed babies need extra water in hot weather. This is not true. Breast milk contains all the water a baby requires and providing the baby is feeding as much as he needs to, he won't suffer from dehydration. (Bear in mind that babies should not be exposed to the sun for long periods in any case).
Myth 5: Women with small breasts can't produce as much milk as women with larger breasts. This is also untrue. The size of a breast is determined by the amount of fatty tissue it contains; whereas the amount of milk it produces is determined by the number of milk-producing glands it has. Most breasts have the same number of milk glands, regardless of their size.
Myth 6: Breastfeeding offers complete protection against pregnancy. Breastfeeding does provide some protection against pregnancy but is not a foolproof method of contraception. Women will generally be protected providing that they breastfeed exclusively and frequently (between six and eight times a day) and have not had a normal menstrual period since the birth. After about six months, the level of protection decreases.
Myth 7: Breastfeeding requires a special diet. To be fit for breastfeeding, and for motherhood, and for life in general, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet, whenever you feel hungry. You don't need to consume extra cows' milk (or extra meat or eggs or whatever your grandmother might have told you) in order to produce breast milk. If you are trying to lose weight, talk to you doctor about making balanced meals and taking light exercise to stay fit and healthy.
Myth 8: Breastfeeding causes saggy breasts. Breasts sag for all sorts of reasons, many of which you can do nothing about: age, genetics, body type, etc. Some breasts sag more than others. Pregnancy itself, and not breastfeeding, can cause breasts to sag. Check out our page on this topic for more info.
Myth 9: A working Mom can't breastfeed. A mother who goes back to work will have to be very organized and determined in order to continue breastfeeding, but there's no reason why it cannot be done. It's possible to pump milk at home and leave supplies for while you are at work. Also, an increasing number of employers are willing to allow you to take breaks in a private space for pumping milk or breastfeeding at work.
Myth 10: Switching from breast milk to formula and back again is bad for the baby. Breast milk is thought to be better for the baby because it contains hormones and antibodies, as well as other things, which formula doesn't have. But there is no reason why it should be harmful to a baby to use formula when breast milk isn't available. You might find the baby unwilling to take a bottle if he is used to the breast however, and also, be aware that he might need to feed more frequently when he is receiving breast milk, because he digests it quicker than formula.