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When I got pregnant with Skibbles, people immediately started asking me if I “planned to breastfeed”. Once I said yes, I heard every single crazy rumor/old wives tales/fallacy that you could think of, from anyone and everyone. Everyone had an opinion about what did or didn’t work for them or their brother’s sister’s best friend’s aunt-in-law twice removed. After more than two years of continuous breastfeeding, I’ve heard my fair share of breastfeeding myths, that I love to call “Booby Traps”. Here I share 50+ Breastfeeding Myths and why they aren’t true.
1. Put them on a schedule immediately
-WRONG! Breastfed babies should be allowed to nurse on demand. According to La Leche League babies need a minimum of 8-12 feedings per 24 hours. During growth spurts they may need more feedings and as they get older they may space their feedings out more. Breastmilk also digests within 30-90 minutes, requiring frequent feedings. During growth spurts, they may also need to nurse more.
2. Pump and Dump after any alcohol consumption
-WRONG! Hale (2012) says, “mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal.” This means mothers who are sober enough to drive are sober enough to breastfeed. Typically 1-2 drinks are perfectly safe for the average mother. KellyMom also explains there is no need to pump and dump as this does nothing to speed up the elimination of milk.
3. If they eat more than every 2-3 hours they are manipulating you, using you as a pacifier, or you aren’t making enough
-WRONG! Although breastfeeding is a comfort mechanism for breastfeed babies, they are not using you as a pacifier and you are making enough milk. If a baby seems to be eating around the clock, especially as a newborn (every 30mins to an hour typically), it’s not because you are not making enough milk, the baby is trying to up your supply. This happens during growth spurts that typically happen during 3s and 6s (3 day, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, etc).
4. Keep nursing through the pain, latch is fine
WRONG! Breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt. Typically the first week, a mother may feel discomfort as the baby is pulling the breast tissue; however there are many causes of nipple pain that should diminish soon after. Wrong positioning, tongue tie, and lip tie are the main concerns for continued pain and should be addressed with a Lactation Consultant. Breast shells may helps during the first few days of soreness.
5. You can’t nurse if you have inverted or flat nipples
-WRONG! If you are in the less than 10% of women with flat or inverted nipples, pumping to pull out the nipple or using a nipple shield can aid in transferring milk to your baby. It’s important to see a Lactation Consultant early to help establish a good routine
6. You have to supplement with formula until your milk comes in. Colostrum isn’t enough.
WRONG WRONG WRONG! Colostrum IS enough. Breastmilk comes in until between days 2-5. During that time frequent feeding at the breast are needed to establish and bring in your milk supply. If you were to supplement with formula, your baby would not be at the breast, reducing the chances for your milk to come in on time. During the first 24 hours a baby only need 30mL of breastmilk. That’s the equivalent to just ONE ounce or 6 teaspoons. It’s also important to note that it’s completely normal for a baby to loose up to 10% of it’s birth weight. Colostrum is STILL enough.
7. Supplement with formula to make sure baby is getting vitamins/nutrients
-WRONG. The average breastfed baby is getting adequate, sometimes even higher amounts of vitamins directly from breastmilk. Premature babies may need additional vitamins, but should be discussed on a case by case basis.
8. Never let baby nurse longer than 15/20/30 mins on one side.
-WRONG! Let your baby nurse on demand. Some babies just take longer to transfer the milk they need. This does not mean you have low supply. You can time your baby following their lead and see what the average amount of time they need to feed.
9. You can’t breastfeed a baby with jaundice, you must supplement until the jaundice goes away.
-WRONG! Jaundice happens in up to 60% of newborns. That doesn’t mean automatic formula. The best plan is to nurse as often as possible whether directly at the breast, via a syringe, or a cup. Spending time in the sun, near a window, or with a billi blanket vs directly under billi lights to allow for skin to skin and on demand breastfeeding should be the first course of attention.
10. Start weaning the baby when he/she turns 6 months.
-WRONG! Would you start weaning a formula baby just because they turned 6 months? No. Breastmilk should be the primary nutritional supply for the first full year of life. Both the AAP and WHO recommend starting solids around 6 months (not before), but breastmilk should still be offered first and be the main supply of nutrition.
11. Have to toughen up your nipples before baby is born
-WRONG! OUCH! This is a very outdated wive’s tale. You don’t need to do anything before the baby is born to your nipples except grab a jar of nipple cream to use after you start nursing.
12. You aren’t producing enough if baby not back to birth weight within a few days. You must supplement with formula.
-WRONG! First, it’s important that the baby be weighed on the SAME scale, preferably naked. A 5-7% weight loss is normal, up to 10%, with the goal of regaining birth weight within 10-14 days. Medical interventions at birth (i.e., lots of fluids given to mom) could skew birth weight and it’s important to take that into consideration. Also, make sure that the pediatrician is using the WHO chart for breastfed babies, as they do not grow at the same rate as formula fed babies. A baby should gain roughly 5-7 ounces per week for the first four months of life.
13. Replace breastmilk with whole milk at 1 year
-WRONG! There’s no need to ever introduce dairy. Of course, you can. But there’s no rule that breastmilk needs replaced at 1 year. According to Dewey (2001), every 15oz of breastmilk during the second year of life provides 94% of B12 requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements and more. The benefits of breastfeeding a toddler far outweigh any recommendation to stop nursing.
14. You have to start cereal because breastmilk isn’t enough.
-WRONG! Breastmilk IS enough! Actually it’s cereals that are nutritionally void of nutrients and no longer recommended. Also it’s commonly recommended that cereal be added to a bottle, which is actually a choking hazard. Instead, wait until at least 6 months and then introduce whole foods.
15. You have to start weaning when baby gets teeth.
-WRONG! Did you know some baby’s are born with teeth? Would you wean them from food? No. There’s no rule that once a baby has teeth they need weaned. Babies still have nutritional needs that need to be met.
16. You have to wait X amount of time in between feedings to let your body reproduce more milk.
-WRONG! Your body is constantly producing milk. There is never a time that you aren’t making milk and no reason to wait in between feedings. That’s just not how milk production works.
17. My breasts don’t feel full anymore/I don’t feel a letdown anymore, I must not be making enough milk.
-WRONG! Somewhere around 3-4 months, as your body gets in a routine of how much milk to produce for your nursling(s), it’s common for you not to feel full or even a letdown. Sometimes this happens earlier, sometimes later, depending on the mom. Weight gain and diaper output are always the recommended ways for knowing if you are making enough milk.
18. You need to give formula to help baby Sleep Through The Night (STTN).
-WRONG! There’s no evidence that formula or solids will help a baby sleep through the night. It’s also important to remember that breastmilk digests in 30-90 mins, so a breastfed baby may legitimately be hungry. Additionally, the AAP defines STTN as ONE 5 hour stretch during the night, not 10-12 hours.
19.Can’t nurse if you have a C-Section
-WRONG! Moms who give birth via c-section are just as successful at breastfeeding as anyone else. It is important that you are able to see your baby as soon as possible, preferably immediate skin to skin contact. With the help of nurses and your partner, breastfeeding can begin immediately.
20. Can’t nurse on medications/ There’s no alternative medicines available. I must pump and dump.
-WRONG! Many medications are in fact safe and for the few that are not, there are alternatives available that are safe. Very, very rarely is something not safe. Doctors/nurses often tell a mothers that she cannot breastfeed while on medication to “cover their butt”, when in fact they don’t truly know. There’s an expansive list of resources available to help you determine what medications are safe, including the LactMed phone line.
21. You can’t relactate
-WRONG! Sometimes a mother needs to look into relactation and it’s completely possible. Getting baby to the breast as often as possible is one of the best ways, but there are a lot of resources available for mothers wishing to relactate.
22. Baby not gaining enough. Must supplement.
-WRONG! (Usually). Again, referring back to #12, it’s important to make sure that the pediatrician is using the WHO chart for breastfed babies, as they do not grow at the same rate as formula fed babies. A baby should gain roughly 5-7 ounces per week for the first four months of life. As a baby becomes mobile, they will gain less weight – typically 4-5 ounces during 4-6 months and 2-4 ounces during 6-12 months. Just because they aren’t gaining the same amount, isn’t an automatic reason.
23. Can’t nurse because my mother, sister couldn’t nurse.
-WRONG! There’s no evidence that shows that because your mother or any other family member wasn’t successful at breastfeeding that you won’t be. Often times, culture and some of these same myths in this post, are the reason she wasn’t successful at breastfeeding. Nursing your baby on demand is key to setting yourself up for a positive breastfeeding relationship.
24. I can’t breastfeed because my baby is in the NICU.
-WRONG! Premature infants need breastmilk more than any other baby. Working with a lactation consultant right away, getting a hospital grade pump, and establishing a pumping routine and supply as early as possible are keys to breastfeeding your baby in the NICU. Every drop counts!
25. My breasts are too small or too large
26. I’m not making enough because I can only pump X ounces.
-WRONG! First, pumping is NOT an indication of how much you are producing. Pumps are NOT as effective as a baby at removing milk from the breast. The average mother only produces 1/2 to 2 ounces TOTAL (from both breasts) per nursing session. Pumping tips can help moms that need to maintain a pumping schedule.
27. I can’t breastfed because my previous child wouldn’t/couldn’t nurse.
-WRONG! Every child is different. It’s likely that a previous nursing dyad fell into one of the many booby traps discussed here. If you did have a previous nursing relationship not go how you wanted, we recommend seeing a lactation consultant immediately after birth to set up a positive nursing relationship this time around.
28. I can’t breastfeed because I have multiples.
-WRONG! There’s no evidence that mothers of multiples can’t breastfeed. Remember breastfeeding is a supply and demand business and you can provide adequate nutrition for multiples. Kellymom has a lot of information for breastfeeding multiples.
29. I have to supplement because breastmilk isn’t enough.
-WRONG! Breastmilk is enough. Diaper output and weight gain are the only clear indications of sufficient breastmilk supply.
30. Fusing at the breast so they must not be getting any milk.
-WRONG! There are a multitude of reasons a baby may be fussing at the breast. Oversupply and fast let-down are two of the main reasons, but can easily be fixed with laid back breastfeeding. It’s important to determine the reason of the fussing (growth spurt vs time of day) before assuming anything is wrong with milk production.
31. My family doesn’t support me.
-WRONG! Who cares. Giving your baby optimal nutrition should be the only concern. Hopefully, they will come around, if not, focus on caring for your baby.
32. My partner won’t bond with the baby.
-WRONG! There are hundreds of ways for a partner to bond with a baby besides feedings. Bath time, bed time routines, reading books, playing during tummy time, brushing hair, getting dressed, taking a walk, singing, etc., are all examples of how a parent can bond with a child. Feeding does not have to be one of them.
33. I have to supplement in public.
-WRONG! Nursing in public is natural and normal. There’s no reason you can’t. However, some woman may not be comfortable for personal reasons. This doesn’t mean you have to supplement. Pumping, even a small amount, is adequate, or finding a quiet, private place to nurse can also be beneficial. Nursing covers may also help if the mother wishes to use one.
34. Don’t need to eat at night after X weeks.
-WRONG! Have you ever woken up to eat in the middle of the night? Probably. As a baby is growing and developing, they need to eat frequently. Remember, breastmilk digests within 30-90 minutes. If you stopped feeding in the middle of the night, key nutrients could be lost. Also, breastmilk at night is often fattier and more nutrient dense than in the daytime which ensures that a baby is gaining weight properly. It’s also important to remember that breastfeeding is about nurturing as well as nutrition.
35. Breastfeeding past 12 months is gross/sexual.
-WRONG WRONG WRONG! There is nothing gross or sexual about breastfeeding at any age. The world average weaning age if a child is let self-wean is approximately 4 years old. Culturally, we have be told that once a baby can talk/walk, we should wean them, but evidence shows that breastfeeding should continue to at least 2 years old if possible.
36. I have to wean because I’m pregnant.
-WRONG! While many moms may decide breastfeeding during pregnancy isn’t for them, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Many moms can continue to breastfeed during pregnancy if they choose. If breastfeeding is causing contractions, which happens in a very low percentage of women, then breastfeeding may need to stop, but this should be discussed with your care provider.
37. It will ruin your sex life.
-WRONG! Huh?? How?? You aren’t trying to have sex while nursing. Your partner will still find you attractive and still want to continue a sex life.
38. It will make your boobs sag.
-WRONG! Or maybe right in a few cases. But it has nothing to do with breastfeeding and more of a predisposition to a number of other factors. Over time, all women, unless surgically alternating their appearance, will get “saggy boobs”. This isn’t a reason to not breastfeed.
39. It’s not beneficial after a year.
-WRONG! Referring back to #13 – According to Dewey (2001), every 15oz of breastmilk during the second year of life provides 94% of B12 requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements and more. The benefits of breastfeeding a toddler far outweigh any recommendation to stop nursing. WHO recommends a minimum of 2 years old and then as long as mutually agreed upon by the mother and nursling.
40. Can’t breastfeed a baby with reflux.
-WRONG! Breastfed babies actually appear to do better than formula fed babies who have reflux. Creating a positive environment for a baby with reflux is the most important thing.
41. Shouldn’t nurse a baby to sleep,
-WRONG! There’s nothing wrong with nursing a baby to sleep. Breastfeeding is calming, comforting, and nurturing and has benefits for both the mother and child.
42. My baby has a feeding tube.
-WRONG! You can still pump and give breastmilk through a feeding tube. Actually, this is preferred as breastmilk contains more nutrients and antibodies than any other form of milk.
43. Breastfeeding causes tooth decay.
-WRONG! No valid study has linked breastfeeding and tooth decay. More often, this is a heredity concern and not a concern with breastfeeding itself. Wiping teeth and gums with tooth wipes may decrease the risk even more.
44. Have to breastfeed on both sides every time.
-WRONG! Not all babies nurse on both sides every time. Some may, other may not. It’s not any indication of milk production, supply, or anything else. It’s just a preference. Again, if diaper output and weight gain are normal then there’s no reason for concern.
45. Never let your baby comfort nurse.
-WRONG! We can’t say enough that breastfeeding has way more than nutritional value. A baby will want to nurse when sick, upset, or a number of other reasons. It’s perfectly acceptable, and can even benefit mom to help get through difficult moments by allowing to breastfeed.
46. There’s no such thing as nipple confusion
-WRONG! There actually is such a thing as nipple confusion and can lead to a host of issues if artificial nipples are introduced too early since there is a difference in the way a baby essentially sucks at the breast vs an artificial mechanism.
47. You will spoil your baby if you feed them too often.
-WRONG! You can’t spoil a baby.
48. Some babies can be allergic to breastmilk
-WRONG! Most babies have no issues with anything that a mother eats. It’s important to distinguish between normal fussiness and an underlying issues, especially during the early weeks of life. Some more may see a benefit in reducing or eliminating certain foods from her diet, such as dairy, but often there is no reason.
49. Side lying causes ear infections
-WRONG! This simply isn’t true and actually there are proven studies that show breastfeeding reduces the risk of ear infections.
50. You can’t nurse if you adopt
-WRONG! Many adoptive mothers can use resources to lactate, even without previously having children. They may not be able to provide a full supply, but every drop counts! Supplemental Nursing Systems and Lactation Boosting Foods can be beneficial.
While these are all breastfeeding myths that most women hear, we would like to point out that some women do truly have medical concerns that prevent them from producing enough milk, such as IGT; however, these cases are extremely rare, and if a newborn is allowed to establish a supply from the beginning naturally, then most women will never experience any concerns.
We always recommend attending your local La Leche League meetings and/or seeing a Lactation Consultant, especially an IBCLC if there is concern about any breastfeeding or supply. Typically, a pediatrician has less than an hour of breastfeeding training during medical school and they are not well versed in breastfeeding concerns. Also grabbing a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding can be very beneficial!
It wasn’t until researching for this article that I learned Best for Babes coined the term “Booby Traps”. We love their take on these and other breastfeeding myths. Read more about Booby Traps from them.
Check out our post on 15 Lactation Recipes for the Breastfeeding Mom!
Disclaimer: We are not a medical professional. Information within this post should be considered educational and informative only. Readers are advised to consult with their own medical professionals in making decisions affecting their health.