Any nursing mother, or soon to be mother, has heard an array of breastfeeding myths; old wives tales that have been passed down through generations. Some of these myths are detrimental to a woman’s confidence—she thinks that if she has a certain body shape or eats a certain food, that that will impact the flow of her breast milk. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed by the slew of advice that other mothers were giving me—some of it was really helpful and some of it just made me go insane. I did not know what was fact and what was fiction, and that uncertainty lead to anxiety in my early breastfeeding days.
Here are some of the biggest myths in regards to breastfeeding, explained. Pass this along to any new mothers you know and maybe we can keep those breastfeeding rumors in check!
1. You Cannot Breast If You Have Had A Breast Augmentation
Women have breast augmentations for a variety of reasons, and I won’t pass judgment on any of them. The real question to ask is: if you have had an augmentation does this mean that you cannot nurse?
It really depends on the specific surgery. Breast implants, for example, have a variety of different implementation techniques. Many of these techniques are cohesive with nursing, meaning that they won’t hinder your ability to do. Breast reductions, as well, are dependent on how they are performed. But as long as your areolas remain attached to the tissue beneath them, it is likely that you will still have a successful nursing experience.
Even if you don’t have a full milk supply, it is very possible that you will at least get some milk, and can supplement with formula.
2. If You Have Small Breasts, You Will Not Produce Enough Milk
This one of the first things that I wondered about when I was pregnant; did the size of your breasts directly impact how much milk that you can produce? And if so, does this mean that women who have small ta-tas will not be able to feed their baby enough milk?
The answer is no. You don’t have to worry about size; it is has no direct correlation with the amount of milk you produce.
Anne Smith of Breastfeeding Basics explains, “Fatty tissue is what gives the breast its rounded shape and protects the internal structures from injury. The amount of fatty tissue and the size of the breast are not related to the ability to produce milk, so small breasted women are just as capable of adequate milk production as the more amply endowed.”
3. Breastfeeding Is Good Birth Control
Oi. If I had a nickel for every time a new mother has asked me this question, then I would probably be able to buy myself an overpriced latte from Starbucks. (A nickel just really doesn’t get you much anymore, huh?) This method is commonly referred to as “LAM” or the lactational amenorrhea method (amenorrhea means no menstruation).
While it is true that breastfeeding may impact your chances of conceiving, it should be by no means a “form” of birth control. Nursing can stop a woman from ovulating—especially in the first 6 months—but everyone’s body is different. Women get pregnant all of the time while they are breastfeeding! I had a friend who banked on the fact that it was highly unlikely and she now has kids who are 10 months apart. She seems happy enough, but Irish Twins aren’t everyone’s dream…
4. You Shouldn’t Nurse If You Have Mastitis
Ladies—be warned about the horrendous nature of mastitis—it has taken me out numerous times during the early days of nursing. It is the worst.
Mastitis usually begins as a clogged milk duct, which then starts to grow bacteria. It can turn quickly and take you down fast. What starts as a slightly uncomfortable lump can become a full blown fever. Watch out for painful nursing, red spots on your chest, and extreme pain that comes from your nipple.
Many women are concerned when they are experiencing mastitis that they should not nurse their babies, for fear of passing the infection on to them. Rest assured, this is not the case. NURSE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE! Nursing helps break up the lump in your ducts, and the infection will not enter your baby’s system through your milk.
If you suspect you have mastitis call your doctor right away.
5. You Can Only Eat Certain Foods
New moms are always so scared that what they are eating will directly affect their milk supply. But in general, most women’s milk production is affected mildly by food.
Certain herbs, for example, can tamper with milk supply. But generally you only put a teaspoon into a recipe so most women don’t even notice.
With regard to food, the only thing that is guaranteed to mess up your milk is if you are not eating enough. By starving yourself you are making your body conserve, which doesn’t bode well with breast milk. Make sure you are eating plenty of protein filled snacks between meals, and you should be golden. Also making sure that your diet includes the necessary amount of fruits and vegetables will ensure that your body is working at maximum capacity.
6. Pumping Leads To Weaning
Many new mothers are worried that if they pump their milk, this will lead to their child weaning from breastmilk. Rest assured ladies, doctors assure us that this is false.
Modern women wear many different hats and often return to work in the months after the baby is born. There is a nagging guilt that if they pump that their baby will wean from the breastmilk and not get all of its nutrients and antibodies. However, this is not the case. Many babies will happily drink breastmilk out of a bottle when taught to do so, and some have no trouble switching between nursing and the bottle.
There are many helpful articles out there that can advise a new mom on the best way to approach the best method for pumping.
7. Breastfed Babies Don’t Sleep Through The Night
I heard this rumor a lot in my early days of breastfeeding. I was cautioned, especially by older women, that my baby would not sleep through the night if I nursed them exclusively.
There is zero scientific evidence to support this. Breast milk is very filling—it is literally tailored by your body to optimally keep your baby healthy and full. The reality is that most babies don’t sleep through the night for a good long while. They want to be comforted by you. They want to be held. And they may want to nurse. Don’t get fooled into thinking everyone else’s babies are sleeping in 12 hour stretches—it is simply not the case. Every baby is different and whether or not you nurse them has nothing to do with their sleeping patterns.
8. If You Go Back To Work You Can’t Breastfeed
Simply untrue. Some women go back to work because they are passionate about their careers. Some women go back to work out of financial necessity; and some a mix of the two. Whatever your reasons for returning to your job, don’t think that this means that you cannot breastfeed. Doctors still insist that breastmilk is optimal if you are able to produce it, and being away from home does not stop production.
Pumping during the day can give you the freedom to leave your baby but also give you the opportunity to nurse them in the non-working hours. Some companies have specific nursing stations, while others will make time for you to find somewhere private.
Modern day women need not be hindered by choosing between nursing and their careers—there are ways to have both.
Don’t limit yourself.
9. The Older The Child, The Harder It Is To Wean
Studies have shown us that just because a child is older, it is does not mean that they will be harder to stop breastfeeding. In fact, some studies have shown that most kids will wean themselves, which means you don’t have to worry about it al! (I do have to say that my daughter probably would have nursed until she was 45 if given the option. But that still doesn’t mean that she was harder to wean at 18 months versus if I had tried when she was 12 months.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises women to wait until at least a year to stop breastfeeding. You are the best judge of when to wean your baby—ignore the judgments and do what works best for you and your little one.
10. Nursing Babies Are Be Clingy
I laugh at the absurdity of this myth to begin with—a baby—being clingy? THAT IS THE VERY DEFINITION OF A BABY. Babies rely on their mother exclusively at first; you supply them with food and with comfort. The smell of your clothes and the tone of your voice are calming to them, as is nursing. So yes, your baby may be “clingy”, but this has nothing to do with breastfeeding, and on this, doctors agree.
Breastfeeding is natural; it is what your body is biologically created to do. There is neither shameful nor irregular, and it won’t in any way change the personality of your infant.
If you don’t want a clingy baby you may want to try getting a dog instead. But in my experience, they can be pretty “clingy”, too.
11. Too Much Exercise Can Damage Milk Supply
This myth has scared new mothers out of exercising for decades and is essentially unfounded. Experts say that as long you maintain a diet that supports your exercise habits, your milk supply will not be affected.
A nursing mother burns about 500 when producing breastmilk, so you already should be eating extra calories. It is important to make sure that you are getting enough fats and proteins to supplement your body during exercise but other than that, you are golden. Don’t be afraid of getting back out there- just ease into your routine.
In reality, experts urge new mothers to exercise because it helps fight postpartum depression. Even if you are just getting outside for a walk, the exertion paired with leaving the house can do wonders for your body.
12. You Should Stop Breastfeeding When Have A Cold
The myth that you should stop breastfeeding your baby when you are sick stems from the fear that you will infect your baby with whatever you have. This is factually unsound for many reasons.
First, your baby clings to every part of your body and is basically attached to you. If they are going to get sick, it won’t be from your breastmilk—it doesn’t transfer that way.
Second—your breast milk contains antibodies that actually fight germs, so nursing your baby is the best thing that you can do for them. As your body fights the cold and builds up resistance, you are then passing it on to your little one.
The only kind of sickness you shouldn’t nurse through is when you accidentally drink a bottle of wine and are hugging your porcelain thrown.