10 Common Breastfeeding Myths
Women First Health Center, an Axia Women’s Health Care Center,
Dr. Sylvester, Youngren, Lo and Sansobrino
Created by: Megan Blomeyer, St. George’s University, MS-IV
Myth 1: If the mother develops a breast infection, she should stop breastfeeding.
Unused milk may get clogged in a milk duct in the breast forming a hard mass, which can lead to an infection called mastitis. Symptoms of this infection include a swollen and tender breast, fever, aches and fatigue. Antibiotics may be needed for treatment, but it is not necessary to stop breastfeeding. The milk obtained from a breast infected with mastitis is not harmful to infants.
Myth 2: A mother taking medications should not breast feed.
False. No medication is without risks, but if the benefits outweigh the harm, the use of medication should not be the reason to stop breastfeeding. A good rule of thumb is that if the medication is safe to give the baby directly, it is safe for the mother to take while breastfeeding. If you have any questions or concerns, ask your doctor for advice about specific medications.
Myth 3: Formula is made to be just like breast milk.
Absolutely not. Nothing is as good as breast milk. The colostrum, which is the milk released from the breast during the first few days of breastfeeding, contains many antibodies, or immune cells that fight off infection caused by bacteria and viruses. These immune cells help the baby develop a natural defense against infection and are not found in formula.
Myth 4: A breastfeeding mother needs to eat a strict diet while breastfeeding.
Women need approximately 450-500 extra calories per day along with plenty of water. A good idea is to drink a glass of water each time you breastfeed. Avoiding foods that may upset the baby’s stomach such as spicy foods or gas provoking agents such as cabbage and limiting your caffeine intake to 200 mg per day are also good practices. If you are going to have an alcoholic drink (12-ounce beer, 4-ounce glass of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor), it is best to do so just after you nurse or pump milk rather than before and allow at least 2 hours per drink before your next breastfeeding or pumping session.
Myth 5: It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt.
Some nipple soreness or discomfort may be experienced during the first week or so after beginning breastfeeding. Pain or soreness that lasts longer than one week or does not improve may be worrisome. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact your doctor.
Myth 6: It’s impossible to get pregnant while you nurse.
False. Breastfeeding is not sufficient birth control. Contraceptive medications composed of only progesterone (without estrogen) are safe immediately after childbirth. Other barrier forms such as condoms are also suggested.
Myth 7: I must supplement my newborns feeding with formula for the first three to five days after he or she is born because I don’t produce enough breast milk.
Wrong. The milk you are producing is sufficient for the size of the baby’s stomach. As the baby’s stomach grows, so will your milk production. Most women actually produce more milk than required. The most common reason for poor weight gain in the baby is improper latching. It is important to learn proper latching techniques soon after delivery. Contact your doctor if you have any questions.
Myth 8: Breastfeeding only benefits infants, it has no advantages for the mother.
It is true that breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of sudden infant syndrome, infections and childhood obesity, but there are also a number of benefits for the mother. Decreased bleeding after delivery, earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and decreased rates of breast and ovarian cancer are a few maternal benefits.
Myth 9: I am sick so I need to stop breastfeeding at least until I feel better.
With a cold or even the flu, it is not necessary to stop breastfeeding. The antibodies the mother produces to fight the infection will be transferred in the breast milk to the infant which can protect the infant from current infection with this organism. With this being said, it is still important to discuss these issues with your healthcare provider if you are concerned.
Myth 10: I have to breastfeed once an hour for 20 minutes on each breast for my infant to get enough nutrition.
False. Each baby will set his or her own breastfeeding schedule. In general, breastfeeding once every 2-3 hours for 10-15 minutes on each breast is adequate.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “AAP Policy on Breastfeeding and Use of Human Milk.” Accessed August 5, 2013. http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/policyOnBreastfeedingAndUseOfHumanMilk.html.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “FAQs.” Accessed August 5, 2013. http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/healthProfessionalsFAQ.html.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Frequently Asked Questions: Breastfeeding Your Baby.” June 2013. Accessed August 6, 2013. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq029.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130806T1008512005.
Thomas, J. “Medications and Breastfeeding:Tips for Giving Accurate Information to Mothers.” Accessed August 5, 2013. http://www2.aap.org/breastfeeding/files/pdf/Lactmed.pdf.