25 Common Breastfeeding Myths (and why they are wrong)

February 16th, 2014 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, natural parenting

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This article is part of the Building Blocks to a Healthy Breastfeeding Relationship series, a series I wrote to accompany a presentation I did for the Healthy Child Summit. Be sure to sign up for a free 22 day sneak preview at the Healthy Child Summit website. Beginning in February 2014, you’ll get access to presentations from over 50 natural health, wellness, and parenting professionals on topics like healthy pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding, natural medicines, toxin-free homes, and more. After the sneak peek, please use my a href=”https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=246594&c=ib&aff=212969″>affiliate link if you’d like to purchase access to the presentations.

25 Common Breastfeeding Myths

Because breastfeeding is not normalized in our culture, myths still abound about what is “normal,” how breastfeeding babies “should act,” etc. Many of our myths double as breastfeeding “booby traps,” and can injure your breastfeeding relationship.

Educate yourself about the facts of breastfeeding so you can feel confident in responding to – or simply ignoring – people who try to feed you breastfeeding myths.

Here are 25 breastfeeding myths I’ve heard, along with some information on the facts and links to further resources.

Breastfeeding normally hurts.

Breastfeeding can hurt, your nipples can be sore from the new contact and your breasts can ache from engorgement, but that doesn’t mean that pain is normal. And that definitely does not mean that breastfeeding should continue to hurt. Read more about sore nipples/breasts in my post on typical challenges, and get help!

Breastfeeding is inconvenient.

Your life could be: Getting out of bed to make the formula. Discovering you need to go to the store to buy new formula. Finding supplies to mix the formula. Heating the formula. Dragging the formula supplies out of the house with you. Washing bottles every day.

or

Your life could be: Pulling up your shirt. Nursing baby. Going back to sleep.

The end.

Ok, it’s not always that easy, but nursing is – for the most part – free. It is always available, it is always the right temperature, it gives babies immunities and nutrients that formula can never replicate. Most mothers will reassure you that breastfeeding is by far easier and more convenient than formula feeding.

The amount of milk you produce depends on the size of your breasts.

Under normal circumstances, you can produce enough milk to feed your baby regardless of whether you are an A cup or an F cup. Breast size does not determine whether you can produce enough milk. Breast size can affect how much milk is stored between feedings, but it should not impact your ability to exclusively breastfeed and have your baby gain enough weight.

Low milk supply is a common problem.

Most women produce a perfectly adequate amount of milk. Often, if baby is not gaining weight as expected, the problem is latch – not supply. Get help from a professional lactation consultant. While there is a very small chance you have a true milk supply issue (or another issue such as hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue), more likely your supply is just fine, you just need to work on latch or positioning, or in other cases, you may need to look into tongue or lip tie.

Pumping is a good indicator of how much milk you have.

Straight from Kellymom: “It cannot be stressed enough that the amount of milk you able to pump is NOT ever a reliable indicator of how much milk you are producing, nor how much milk baby is taking in. The healthy breastfed baby is usually much more efficient at getting milk from the breast than a pump is.”

You should time out your nursing sessions so your breasts can “refill.”

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process: your breasts will magically make enough breastmilk if you nurse your baby on demand, as needed, to help her gain a healthy amount of weight. Read more about milk production at Kellymom, but please, do not believe that you need to wait some specific amount of time between feedings.

Big babies must be supplemented with formula.

Your body was designed to feed your baby, whether your baby was born premature at 3 lbs or full-term at 12 lbs. Feed on demand, nurse skin-to-skin, and trust your body’s ability to nourish your baby. Read Is Baby Getting Enough Milk if you are worried.

Dads/partners must give bottles in order to bond with baby.

While breastfeeding does give mothers a beautiful means of bonding with babies, mothers who never breastfeed bond just as well to their babies. Here are 50 Ways Partners Can Bond with Babies (Without Giving Them a Bottle).

Some babies are just allergic to their mother’s milk.

From La Leche League: “Human milk is the most natural and physiologic substance that baby can ingest. If a baby shows sensitivities related to feeding, it is usually a foreign protein that has piggybacked into mother’s milk, and not the milk itself. This is easily handled by removing the offending food from mother’s diet for a time.”

Babies who fall asleep at the breast will never learn to fall asleep alone.

Yes, you can start incorporating other ways to help baby fall asleep eventually, but for newborns, breastfeeding while they drift off to sleep (often coupled with snuggling skin-to-skin with mama) is all part of a healthy “4th trimester.” For resources on healthy, gentle nighttime parenting ideas, see Attachment Parenting International’s Ensure Safe Sleep page.

Babies should be “topped off” with formula to help them sleep at night.

Here’s the thing – yes, sometimes parents have to get up in the middle of the night to parent their infants. That’s part of being a parent. Responding to your infant’s needs – day or night – is part of helping your child establish a feeling of love and safety and a healthy attachment to you. As for milk production, those nighttime nursing sessions are important to your milk supply. Read more at Nurtured Child’s article, “Nighttime bottle usually doesn’t mean more sleep.” Most importantly, when your baby awakens at night, she is often doing so for a biological purpose. Parents who respond appropriately to baby’s needs are more likely to have healthier, happier babies. Read more at LLL’s Nighttime Parenting and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Breastfeeding mothers don’t get as much sleep as mothers who formula feed.

Pssst . . . breastfeeding, cosleeping mothers actually get more sleep. Read the scientific study!

Night nursing causes cavities.

Mothers have long been told that night nursing causes cavities. However, scientific research has demonstrated that this is not true. When babies drink bottles, the liquid pools in their mouth, causing bacteria and cavities. Because breastfeeding uses different jaw and mouth movements, breastmilk does not pool in the mouth in the same way. Read more about the research at Is Breastfeeding Linked to Tooth Decay?

Babies should not use moms as pacifiers.

Babies do not just breastfeed to relieve their hunger. Babies have a biological need to suck, and our nipples are the perfect pacifiers. Where, exactly, do you think the first pacifier maker got the idea? Pacifiers are substitutes for nipples. It is ok to let babies comfort nurse. Read more about properly introducing pacifiers, and why pacifiers can interfere with breastfeeding, at Kellymom.

Babies who are comforted at the breast will never learn to “self-soothe.”

Sleep trainers (those who encourage parents to let babies “cry it out”) tell parents that comforting crying babies – by breastfeeding or otherwise – will prevent babies from learning how to soothe themselves. Not only is this patently untrue, but practicing “crying it out” can also be physically harmful to babies. Especially in the first 6 months of life, please do not let your baby cry it out. Comfort your baby, respond to his needs, learn her cries, become your baby’s expert. For more advice, read 31 Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep and Stay Asleep from Dr. Sears, and explore the Evaluating Babywise site.

Babies should wean once they start getting teeth.

Babies can get their first tooth before they are born. Babies can also get their first tooth after they turn a year old. The eruption of teeth has absolutely nothing to do with breastfeeding. Carry on.

Babies should wean once they start talking.

Babies “talk” to us by crying before they ever start using words. Spoken words, signed words, meaningless grunts – none of these are milestones of weaning readiness. Carry on.

You should not breastfeed if you smoke.

It is better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and give your baby formula. I would, however, highly encourage parents to quit smoking, for their health and the health of their children. Read Breastfeeding and Cigarette Smoking for more information, and for help quitting, read Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit).

You have to pump and dump if you drink any alcohol.

“Current research says that occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks) does not appear to be harmful to the nursing baby.” Read more at Kellymom. Please be sure to practice safe cosleeping habits – do not sleep with baby if you have been drinking.

You have to pump and dump if you are getting certain medical procedures (CAT scan, MRI, etc.) or taking certain medications.

If you have to take a medication or undergo a medical procedure, you must do your own research on what safety precautions to take as a breastfeeding mother. The majority of doctors, techs and other medical professionals do not receive continuing education on breastfeeding at all, much less on the potential effects of medications on breastfeeding. Find an LC who has a copy Hale’s Medications and Mothers’ Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology. Read about my experience at Medical Tests and Medicines: Beware of Breastfeeding Booby Traps.

Breastfeeding prevents you from having a satisfying sex life.

Breastfeeding and cosleeping do not mean that you have to forfeit sex for the next 18 years. Your sex life can, in fact, be even more fulfilling, because you may be forced to become more creative. This article may be helpful for you if you are experiencing a decrease in your libido.

Breastfeeding mothers must eat a certain diet.

While it is true that breastmilk is dependent on the mother’s diet, mothers do not need to have a “perfect” diet in order to give their babies the ideal food. Read more about why no formula is better than breastmilk at From Karo Syrup to Goat Milk – The Formulas Change, but the Booby Traps Remain the Same.

You cannot breastfeed while pregnant.

You can breastfeed while pregnant. I did, many of my friends did, there are books and websites devoted to breastfeeding while pregnant. For more information, read Breastfeeding During Pregnancy – Common Concerns About Safety.

Breastmilk has no nutritional value after 6 months.

Breastmilk is perfectly designed to meet the needs of your child, no matter how young or old. The composition of breastmilk changes – the fat content, the types of immunities, growth factors and hormones – these are constantly shifting as your baby ages and is exposed to different environmental factors. Read more about the components of breastmilk.

Breastfeeding past infancy causes psychological damage to children.

Breastfeeding past infancy is normal, natural, and healthy. Self-weaning very rarely occurs in children before one year of age, and most often happens around four years of age. For more on the many benefits to you and your child of continuing to nurse past infancy, read Breastfeeding Past Infancy Resources.

Further resources on breastfeeding myths.

Photo credit: Myllisa, edited with permission via Flickr Creative Commons

2 Responses to:
"25 Common Breastfeeding Myths (and why they are wrong)"

  1. Karen at MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    Thank you for a great article. I wish I had known more of these facts earlier on. I get so sad when I hear that people stop breastfeeding because of one of these myths… Thanks for your advocacy around breastfeeding!

  2. Kimberly   croclakepress

    I breast feed my daughter for 12 months, she weaned herself or I would have done it longer. It was one of the best experiences in my life. There is nothing like the bond we created during that time. I feel so sad that more women don’t. I experienced pain when I first started nursing and was lucky the doctors noticed my daughter had a shortened frenulum (the skin that attaches to the tongue the floor of your mouth). They clipped it and it made a world of difference. Thank you for a wonderful article.

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