From the moment you announce your pregnancy, it seems like everyone around you has an opinion on how you should care for and raise your child. Family members, friends, and even co-workers may try to give you advice about cloth versus disposable diapers, co-sleeping versus cribs, and breastfeeding versus formula.
For the most part, parents need to make their own decisions about what’s right for them and their babies. But making good choices also requires being properly educated on the subject—old wives’ tales just aren’t going to cut it. So we’ve compiled a list of breastfeeding myths to help you decide whether breastfeeding is the best route for your little one and to help you breastfeed successfully if that is the route you choose.
Myth 10: Breastfeeding is easy.
Mothers and babies are hardwired for breastfeeding, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be pros at it right away. If it were really that simple, there would be no such thing as a lactation consultant. If you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby but it just doesn’t seem to be working, try not to get frustrated. Instead, get some help. It can be done, and you are not a bad mother for needing some assistance.
Myth 9: Pain is just part of the process.
No, you don’t just have to suck it up and let it hurt. Breastfeeding can be difficult for a variety of reasons, but pain does not need to be one of them, at least not in the long-term. If breastfeeding is causing you pain, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant about what you can do differently. Sometimes the difference is as simple as switching breastfeeding positions.
Myth 8: You shouldn’t wake a baby up to breastfeed.
It’s probably true that most new moms worry a little too much when their babies sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours without a feeding. For the most part, it’s okay to let your baby sleep a little longer. But if it’s becoming sort of a habit for your baby to go long periods of time without breastfeeding (especially if these breaks occur more than once per day), you may have good reason to wake your baby for a feeding. You will both be happier and healthier if your little one eats more regularly. A regular feeding schedule may also help you produce a steadier supply of milk.
Myth 7: You can make more milk by eating and drinking better.
A healthy diet and plenty of water are essential to your ability to breastfeed your baby, and there’s certainly a level of malnutrition at which your milk production will suffer. However, if you’re already getting the nourishment and fluids you need, drinking more water and eating healthier isn’t likely to increase the amount of milk you make. You don’t have to have a flawless diet to have a good milk supply.
Myth 6: You can’t breastfeed while on a medication.
There are certainly some medications you should avoid if breastfeeding (or avoid breastfeeding if you’re taking them), but the list is shorter than you probably think. Most drugs that are considered safe for young children or pregnant women to take are also safe for breastfeeding women. And even some medications that don’t fit this criteria can still be safe to take while breastfeeding. If you’re concerned that the traces of your medication that end up in your milk may be harmful to your baby, talk to your doctor about the risks and whether there are any safer alternative medications you could take.
Myth 5: Giving your breast a break will increase milk supply.
The truth is that the more often you breastfeed, the more milk you will make. Your body is smart that way; it knows how much milk it needs to be producing just by how much and how often that milk is being used. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, but if there’s a problem with your milk supply, “resting” your breast is not likely to make it any better.
Myth 4: Newborns always feed every 2 to 3 hours.
Honestly, newborn babies aren’t really huge fans of sticking to a schedule. As they get a little older, they’re likely to take more standard-length breaks in between feedings. But when they’re new to this world, they may sleep several hours at a time without feeding or may want to be fed twice in a very short period of time. Or you may get lucky and have a baby that likes a strict schedule from the very beginning.
Myth 3: Babies who eat more often are probably not getting enough milk.
Breast milk is digested more quickly than formula, so babies who are breastfed will most likely need to eat more often despite the fact that they are getting adequate amounts of milk at their feedings. Younger babies also eat more often than older ones, as their stomachs are much smaller and cannot hold as much milk at one time.
Myth 2: Premature babies cannot be breastfed.
Because parents are often kept at a distance when their child is born prematurely, it becomes difficult for premature babies to learn to breastfeed when they are finally freed from the medical devices that prevented breastfeeding early on. However, with a little work and perhaps a little help, even premature babies can learn to breastfeed normally.
Myth 1: You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding.
For the most part, women do not get pregnant while breastfeeding, particularly if it’s within the first six months of the baby’s birth and the mother has not had her period again. Mothers who are not giving their babies anything but breastmilk and are nursing regularly (every four to six hours) are even less likely to conceive. About one percent of women who meet all these breastfeeding criteria will still get pregnant, and those who only meet some of the criteria are more likely to get pregnant.
There’s a lot of pressure out there for moms. No matter what choices you make for your baby, somebody somewhere will think you did the wrong thing. But every woman has to make her own choice about breastfeeding or bottle feeding. For the health and happiness of your family, we encourage you to educate yourself as much as possible before you make the decision. Busting these 10 breastfeeding myths has hopefully led you to a better understanding of what breastfeeding is really like (and what it isn’t like) to help you make the right choice for you and your little one.
Congratulations, Mama! Keep on being the superhero we know you are!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?