Being a Milky Mama has its blessings, but it also comes with some unsolicited advice. If your family and friends are not familiar with breastfeeding they may tell you some crazy (and false) information. I want to debunk a few of the most common misconceptions about breastfeeding so you can feed those milky babies with peace of mind!
1. Breastfeeding will come naturally
Many mamas-to-be think that their breastfeeding journey will be smooth sailing, but that is not always the case. Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a learned skill for you and your baby.
All babies are born with the reflex to root for their mother’s breast. But mothers need to know proper positioning techniques and signs of a correct latch. This requires a lot of patience, time, and bonding with your baby.
2. It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt
Please don’t ever believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt! It is actually the opposite. While feeding your baby you may feel a tingling sensation during let down along with gentle tugging as baby swallows, but not pain.
You may develop sore nipples in the first few days or weeks while you are learning how to nurse but it should not be an ongoing issue. If you are consistently experiencing pain during feeds, consult a lactation consultant to see if there are issues with latching.
3. Babies who nurse often aren’t getting enough milk
This myth seems to be a favorite from outsiders who are not used to breastfeeding. While you can clearly see how much formula-fed babies eat from a bottle, you cannot easily measure the milk a baby gets at the breast. One might assume that because of this, if a baby is nursing often it means they are not full.
Breast Milk is easier to digest than formula which means that breastfed babies are naturally going to be hungry more often. Babies also breastfeed for more reasons than nutrition. Frequent nursing may be for comfort, due to a growth spurt, or an illness.
Unless your baby is showing signs that they are not full after a feed like lethargy, not gaining weight, or not producing enough dirty diapers, you are most likely fine. If you have any concerns talk with your provider or lactation consultant.
4. You shouldn’t breastfeed while sick
As a new mom one of you biggest worries is that your new bundle of joy will catch an illness. So when you come down with the flu it is understandable that you are concerned about spreading it to your baby.
Rest assured, mama. One of the best things you can do is to keep breastfeeding while you are sick! As soon as you start to get sick your body will create antibodies that are passed to your baby through your breast milk. This will build up your baby’s immune system and defenses against the illness.
5. Exclusive breastfeeding as birth control
Under certain circumstances, this method can work, but you need to be careful. There have been plenty of moms that thought this was a foolproof method just to find out they are pregnant again.
For EBF to work as a form of birth control you need to follow strict guidelines. For example, you need to be feeding baby from the breast (with a good latch) every 4 hours during the day and 6 hours at night. Unfortunately, pumping or giving baby baby any formula makes this method less effective. This also is only effective during the first 6 months and if you haven’t gotten your period yet. It’s best to look into alternative forms of birth control to be safe.
6. You can’t take your normal medications
For the most part, many medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. Your doctor should always be consulted before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications to be sure.
The most vulnerable infants are premature, newborn, and those that have certain medical conditions. Most medications pass through your breast milk at low levels that will not affect your baby, but there are some that become more concentrated.
An easy way to check which medications are safe is to download the LactMed app. You can search medications and see possible adverse effects and suggested alternatives.
7. You must eat boring food
Mothers are often told that they have to avoid spicy or allergenic foods because they will affect their baby. Most of the time this is untrue. The components that could be upsetting to your little one’s stomach are typically broken down and are not found in your breast milk.
Of course, if there are certain food allergies in your family like dairy or peanuts they could cause digestion issues for your baby. The best approach is to take note of what you eat and see how your baby reacts in the 2 to 12 hours afterwards. If you notice that your baby continually has issues after you eat something it is best to cut it from your diet for a while.
8. If you have had breast-augmentation or -reduction you can’t breastfeed
Depending on how these procedures are done, it is still possible to nurse your baby.
If the procedure is done below the muscle the muscle it is likely that you will be able to breastfeed. Keep it mind that some procedures are done in a way that can affect the milk glands and areola. Any procedure involving the breast has the potential to decrease your supply, so discuss your plans to breastfeed with your surgeon.
9. You can’t drink alcohol while breastfeeding
This is a hot topic in the parenting community. Generally speaking, occasional moderate consumption of alcohol has not been found to be harmful for baby.
This means that if you want to enjoy 1 to 2 drinks at dinner or a weekend get-together you should be fine to do so. Wait about 2 ½ hours before you feed again so the alcohol has had time to leave your blood stream - and your milk. There is no need to “pump and dump” if you stick to a moderate amount. If you feel disoriented or are vomiting then you should wait to feed baby until you are sober and have another caregiver watch the baby.
10. When you go back to work you will have to wean
A common stress for nursing moms is what to do when they go back to work. But don’t worry mama! It is totally doable to keep breastfeeding even as a working mom.
First things first, talk to your employer about your desire to breastfeed. Most employers are now required to give you a break and private room to pump in. Second, check with your insurance provider to see which pumps may be covered for you. Third, make a pumping schedule that coordinates with when your baby would normally eat.
With the right support from your peers and commitment from you, it is realistic to keep breastfeeding for as long as you and baby want.
11. You need to stop nursing at a certain age
A lot of people have an opinion on this but really it is no one’s business but you and your baby’s. There is no set time to stop nursing.
The World Health Organization suggests exclusive breastfeeding babies for the first 6 months of life and then introducing appropriate solids. WHO also suggests that babies nurse until the age of 2 years or more.
Truthfully, there is no right or wrong time to stop breastfeeding. If you are able to nurse at all it is a gift to you and your baby but you can stop whenever it feels right for both of you.
There are so many more myths about breastfeeding that could have been added to this post. What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard about breastfeeding? Come chat with us in the The Official Milky Mama Lactation Support Group to share what you’ve heard or get advice from our wonderful Milky Mama Moderators.