Fact or Fiction: 10 Breastfeeding Myths

Honestly, when I gave birth to oldest child and began breastfeeding for the first time, I had no clue what I was doing. I had a lot of ideas about breastfeeding but very few of them were grounded in education or fact. I believed what I had heard from other moms, from family or read online and let that guide my decisions on how I would feed my baby.

A few days in, two things became very clear. First, breastfeeding is way harder than I ever believed it to be. For something that is so “natural,” it sure takes a lot of hard work. Secondly, I realized that I had a lot of false ideas about the way things worked and generally what I should expect from breastfeeding. Even now, a few months into nursing my third child, I am surprised when I learn something new or discover I have been believing something that isn’t at all true about breastfeeding. I wanted to set the record straight on a few questions I had about nursing so I chatted with Leigh Anne O’Conner, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, about some of the persistent myths that exist about breastfeeding and maintaining your milk supply.

Myth #1: It is normal for breastfeeding to be painful for mom.

“Some moms will feel tender in the beginning,” explained O’Connor. “Outright pain is not normal.”

If you are experiencing pain, or noticing that your nipples are cracked and bleeding, it is time to visit with a lactation consultant since these are signs that something is wrong with your baby’s latch.

Myth #2: Moms who breastfeed need to avoid caffeine.

Most moms have no reason to give up caffeine when they breastfeed. O’Connor suggested that moms who notice their baby fussing every time she has coffee or tea may need to cut back. In some cases, milk used in coffee or tea may actually be causing a fussy baby instead of the caffeine.

Myth #3: Babies wake frequently because their mom isn’t making enough milk.

“A baby wakes at night for many reasons,” O’Connor explained. “Baby could be going through a growth spurt or development leap. Baby could be teething.”

Explaining frequent waking by assuming mom’s milk supply is suffering doesn’t take into account the countless other possibilities. In fact, mom’s milk supply typically surges in volume in the early morning hours so it is normal for babies to wake to nurse during that time, according to O’Connor.

Myth #4: Breastfeeding moms should pump and dump after an alcoholic drink.

Since only 2 percent of the alcohol mom consumes is absorbed into breast milk, there is no reason to pump and dump after a night of light drinking.

“If one is sober enough to drive, one is sober enough to nurse,” O’Connor said. “I advise moms to have their alcoholic beverage with a meal and after a big glass of water.”

Myth #5: Drinking a lot of water will increase your milk supply.

This is only true if mom is dehydrated. Otherwise, all moms should drink to thirst since lactating bodies feel thirst before they become dehydrated, according to O’Connor.

Myth #6: Babies eat frequently because mom isn’t making enough milk.

“Frequent feedings do not necessarily mean a mom is losing her supply,” clarified O’Connor. “Babies nurse for various reasons: calories, hydration, comfort, pain relief and to feel safe.”

Myth #7: “Drink milk to make milk.”

There is absolutely no truth to this old wives’ tale. People who do not drink milk, either because of their preferences of dietary practices such as veganism, still make plenty of milk.

“In fact, cow’s milk can cause tummy upset in moms and babies,” warned O’Connor.

Myth #8: Some babies are allergic to their mother’s milk.

This one is actually true, but very rare. Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is an incredibly rare metabolic disorder where the baby doesn’t have the liver enzyme needed to breakdown the amino acid phenylalanine. Outside of PKU, babies may be allergic to the foods mom is eating but are not actually allergic to breastmilk, according to O’Connor.

Myth #9: If you wait longer between feedings you will have more milk.

Sometimes, a mom may wait longer to nurse or pump and notice she gets more milk. This can cause some mothers to believe that the baby will get more milk if she makes a habit of spreading out feedings.

“This will backfire,” O’Connor warned. “Her breasts ultimately get less stimulation. In the long run, her milk supply will decrease.”

Myth #10: The baby won’t bond with dad, or the non-breastfeeding partner, without them giving them a bottle.

“Love is not expressed only by food!” said O’Connor.

Parents who are looking for additional ways to connect with their child can help with diaper changes, burping the baby after feedings, rock the baby back to sleep or wearing the baby in a carrier during the day. These are also excellent ways to support a breastfeeding mother.


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