10 breastfeeding myths debunked
Lactation Consultant, Rebecca Agi, puts to rest 10 common misconceptions about breastfeeding
Common myths about breastfeeding can cause a lot of unwarranted stress and worry for new mothers. In this article, I dispel 10 of the most common myths to help put minds at ease.
10 Common Breastfeeding Myths
Myth #1: A mother with small breasts won’t make enough milk for her baby.
Fact: Believe it or not, breast size does not matter when it comes to breastfeeding. What matters is a mother’s breast storage capacity—the amount of milk in the breasts when they are at their fullest. Women with small breasts could have a large storage capacity, while large breasted women could have a small storage capacity. Storage capacity determines whether the baby will feed from one breast or two, the number of feedings per day, and whether babies continue to need night feedings as they grow. Just because a women is small breasted does not mean she won’t make enough milk.
Myth #2: A nursing mom should avoid spicy foods.
Fact: There’s absolutely no need to avoid spicy foods while breastfeeding. Sharp, strong flavored foods are actually a wonderful way to expose a baby to new tastes and flavors. The flavor of breast milk constantly changes based on foods a mother consumes and this ultimately helps breastfed babies accept a wider variety of foods later on.
Myth #3: Breastfeeding should be temporarily stopped when a mother catches a cold or virus.
Fact: Mothers with colds or viruses do not need to stop breastfeeding. In fact, it is the most important time to continue breastfeeding since breast milk has targeted antibodies that protect a baby from getting sick. Mother’s milk cannot transmit illness. However, regular measures must be taken to prevent the spreading of illness such as: washing hands often, avoiding sneezing/coughing on the baby and limiting face-to-face contact.
Myth #4: It is not safe to lose weight while breastfeeding.
Fact: As long as a mother avoids extreme diets and weight loss programs, she can safely lose weight while breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding helps moms get back to their pre-pregnancy weight faster since it burns an extra 300-500 calories per day.
Myth #5: If a baby wants to suddenly nurse all the time, the mother isn’t making enough milk.
Fact: A sudden increase in appetite does not necessarily mean a mother isn’t making enough milk. It’s actually the most telling sign of a growth spurt. Many mothers begin to doubt their supply once their baby’s appetite suddenly spikes, but nursing on demand will help temporarily adjust a mother’s milk supply to meet her baby’s growing needs. Check out my article on Growth spurts to read more about this.
Myth #6: Mothers with a history of breast surgery aren’t able to produce enough milk for their baby.
Fact: It depends on the type of surgery that was had and where the incisions were made. Incisions made around the areola usually cause nerve damage and sever milk ducts, which would negatively affect milk supply. If only one breast was affected by surgery, full milk production is more likely. Women who have removed one breast via mastectomy have produced enough milk for their babies by nursing on the remaining breast. If a mother with a history of breast surgery chooses to breastfeed her baby, it’s important to closely monitor the baby’s weight gain. See more on Weight gain patterns for breastfed babies.
Myth #7: Mothers with high stress levels shouldn’t breastfeed because their milk can be bad.
Fact: Stress does not affect the quality of breast milk and breastfeeding is actually a wonderful stress reliever. A Swedish research study found that higher oxytocin levels (caused by breastfeeding) decrease blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Breastfeeding enhances a mother’s metabolism, immune system and sleep, and provides a greater sense of control. If you’re a hard working mother with high levels of stress, breastfeeding can provide the perfect opportunity for you to relax, de-stress, and bond with your baby.
Myth #8: It’s a good idea to wean before a baby starts teething.
Fact: Teething can occur anywhere between 4 and 14 months. Babies are not biologically ready to wean when they start teething so breastfeeding can and should continue. If the baby becomes extremely uncomfortable during feedings, try offering a cold, wet washcloth or a safe teething toy prior to breastfeeding. As long as a baby is latched on deeply and correctly, the mother should never feel the baby’s teeth.
Myth #9: Babies can be allergic to their mother’s breast milk.
Fact: It is impossible for a baby to be allergic to his mother’s milk. A mother’s milk is made specifically for her baby. If, however, the baby has an obvious reaction, it’s most likely due to something in the mother’s diet. Working with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant can help determine the exact foods or vitamins that may be causing the reaction.
Myth #10: Mothers of twins won’t make enough milk to feed both babies.
Fact: As long as babies from a multiple pregnancy are born healthy and are breastfeeding successfully, a mother can produce enough milk for her twins. An Australian breastfeeding study found that mothers of twins produced double the milk of a mother of one baby. Women can produce enough milk for twins, triplets or even more without needing to supplement with formula.