18 Breastfeeding Myths

I mostly exist inside a boobie bubble with friends and neighbours who have breastfed, lactation consultants, breastfeeding counsellors and in general people who support and just ‘get’ breastfeeding. But when I am speaking to mothers antenatally or in the early days post-partum, I am reminded of some of the many breastfeeding myths that still abound. Myths that for some reason seem to be ingrained in our collective consciousness.  So I’ve listed below (and hopefully debunked) some of the myths that I regularly hear as a lactation consultant and breastfeeding counsellor.

  1. Breastfeeding is Painful – No it’s not, at least not when it’s going well. Nipples might feel sensitive or tender in the early days, but pain is not normal. If breastfeeding is painful, something is going wrong and you need help.
  2. Babies Latch on to the Nipple – Ouch! No, when babies breastfeed they should open wide and latch on to the breast, taking in a large amount of breast tissue and drawing the nipple towards the junction between the hard and soft palates.
  3. You can’t drink coffee if you’re breastfeeding – Not true. Attend any breastfeeding support group and you’ll see how untrue this is. Generally, up to three or four cups a day is fine, although some babies may be more sensitive to caffeine than others.
  4. You can’t drink alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. Not true. Getting hammered is certainly not advisable, but moderate amounts are not harmful to the baby (for more see http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/alcohol/)
  5. Fizzy drinks should be avoided while breastfeeding as they can cause your milk to become carbonated. This is total, utter nonsense.
  6. You need to be careful about what you eat when breastfeeding. Not really. Just eat enough food. And plenty of chocolate. Breastmilk is synthesized from components in your bloodstream, and most of the major constituents in breastmilk are not dependent on your diet. Even a mother consuming a relatively poor diet can produce perfect breastmilk. Please Note: Some babies will be sensitive to certain foods in their mother’s diet.
  7. You shouldn’t let your baby get too comfortable at the breast because otherwise he’ll fall asleep. Huh? Mother and baby’s comfort is key to successful breastfeeding. It’s important to take time to find a comfortable position and ensure baby is sung, well supported and feeling relaxed.
  8. You shouldn’t let babies fall asleep at the breast. Nonsense. One of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding is that you can use it to get baby to sleep. (Please note: If your small baby is falling asleep at the breast after just a couple of minutes feeding, this may be a problem, so do seek help).
  9. Breastfeeding mothers get less sleep. No actually! Research has shown that mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding get more sleep that mothers who are formula feeding or combination feeding https://womenshealthtoday.blog/2017/03/08/how-do-mothers-get-more-sleep/
  10. You can’t take antibiotics while breastfeeding. Not true. Most antibiotics are compatible with breastfeeding. In fact, most drugs (including anti-depressants) are compatible with breastfeeding. For more information go to https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/
  11. You should wait until your breasts are full before you feed your baby. I’ve heard this a couple of times and it’s not true. Doing so could negatively impact your milk supply. Full breasts send a signal to the brain to slow down milk production. Feed your baby on demand.
  12. You can’t breastfeed if you have inverted nipples. This is not true. There are plenty of tips and tricks for drawing inverted nipples out and helping babies to latch. However, if you feel that you have inverted nipples, it is advisable to seek help from an IBCLC.
  13. Babies must feed from both breasts at each feeding. Not necessarily. Sometimes they will feed from both breasts, other times one will suffice.
  14. You should wait until your baby is crying to latch him on. That way you’ll get him to open up wide. This isn’t true. It is important to be aware of your baby’s early feeding cues and latch him to the breast well before he starts to cry. Latching a stressed, crying baby to the breast is likely to be a lot more difficult than latching a relaxed or still half asleep baby.
  15. During your pregnancy you need to toughen up your nipples using a nailbrush. No you don’t. This is an old wives tale. Your breasts and your nipples will prepare for breastfeeding all by themselves.
  16. You need to place a hand on the back of your baby’s head when he is latching on to your breast. No you don’t! Bring your baby close using gravity (ie lean back a bit more) and using your arms or hands on his back. Babies’ heads are sensitive and they tend not to like hands being placed on them, especially when they are latching. Strong contact on the head can interfere with baby’s feeding reflexes and can also inhibit extension in the neck when latching, which in turn can lead to baby not being able to open as wide and not being able to achieve an optimal latch.
  17. ‘Big’ Babies need formula Top-ups. Nope. Having a baby with a bigger than average birth weight is NOT a clinical indication that formula supplementation is required. It is possible to produce enough milk to feeds twins or even triplets, so it is also possible to produce enough milk to feed a 10 lb (or bigger) baby.
  18. None of a mother’s areola should be visible when her baby is feeding. No, this is not the case as areolas vary widely in size. A mother with small areolas may find that none of her areola is visible when her baby feeds, while a mother who has large areolas will probably find that some areola is visible when baby is feeding.

Comments

  1. Ouch! I haven’t heard about the nail brush on the nipples one for years now.

    Something that seems to be a concern is that responding to feeding cues early, or giving baby what they want may spoil them as some certain clueless authors have written, with no evidence or rationale. The language around responsive parenting is critically discussed as giving in to the baby and the baby being manipulate which is so cognitively advanced it’s an incredible thing to consider.

Leave a Reply to Victoria Leith Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *