When you are expecting a baby, one of the biggest decisions you need to make is how you will feed your baby. If you are trying to decide between breast milk or formula feeding, you should not allow outdated and false information to convince you not to breastfeed. I have made a list of some of the common breastfeeding myths and misconceptions and the truth about them.
A very common misconception some women have about early breastfeeding is the fear that a baby will not get enough food in the days following birth from breast milk alone since their milk has not come in yet. The first milk that a breastfed baby receives after birth is called colostrum. It is rich with antibodies, carbohydrates, protein, and low in fat since newborn babies may have trouble digesting fat at first. This early milk is extremely beneficial for a newborn and even women who do not intend to breastfeed should allow their babies to benefit from colostrum in the first days after birth. A woman who does not allow her baby to nurse early on will still have her breast milk come in and become engorged.
Women may assume they are not producing enough breast milk because their baby eats more frequently than another baby the same age, they have begun eating more frequently recently, or they just seem hungry. Also, women may sometimes worry about their milk supply because there is really no way to know how much milk your baby is ingesting, unlike formula feeding where you can monitor how many ounces your baby takes in. There is no reason to be concerned because your baby’s eating habits differ from another baby. There are a number of factors which make each baby different including their nutritional requirements at the moment. A baby may start to nurse more frequently for a brief period because of a growth spurt. Their more frequent nursing sessions allow your body to keep up with the new demand of an older, larger baby. Babies return to their normal eating schedule within a short time. There is no reason to suspect that there is anything wrong with your milk supply unless your doctor tells you your baby is not gaining weight at an appropriate rate.
Women may assume that if they pump breast milk and only extract a small amount of breast milk, they must not be producing enough milk. Pumped breast milk is not an accurate indicator of how much milk you are currently producing. A baby is much better at extracting breast milk than a breast pump. Pumping more frequently will allow you to pump larger amounts of milk.
If a woman suspects her milk supply is low, she will often resort to supplementing with formula feedings. This is the worst thing that you can do to ensure the success of your breastfeeding relationship. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand arrangement. The more your baby nurses, the more breast milk you are able to produce. Supplemental feedings mean that your supply dwindles and your baby receives less beneficial breast milk. If your doctor tells you they have reason to believe there is something wrong with your milk supply, you should encourage your baby to nurse more frequently. Shorter, more frequent pumping sessions will also help increase your milk supply. Taking supplements like fenugreek, that claim to increase your supply has not been proven effective and could be unsafe. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking any medication.
It is normal for breastfeeding to be painful is a common misconception that often leads women to give up on breastfeeding. It is normal to experience some tenderness in the few days following the birth of a baby. There are creams and cold compresses that a woman can use to ease the pain. If pain persists or worsens, the cause is almost always an improper latch. The baby needs to take in the areola as well as the nipple to nurse correctly. An improper latch means the baby is only latching onto the nipple which can be very painful for the mother and can keep the baby from extracting enough milk leading to supply problems. A new mom may give up on breastfeeding if she believes that breastfeeding will always be painful for her. Many hospitals offer help from a lactation consultant following the birth of a child.
A baby should stay on each breast for an equal amount of time before switching sides is untrue. You should allow your baby to nurse as long as he wants before switching to the other breast to ensure they are receiving enough hind milk. The baby may not be interested in nursing on the second breast at all. This is not a problem. Simply start with the opposite breast at the next feeding.
Many women fear that their baby needs water in addition to breast milk especially on a hot day. This is a myth. It can actually be harmful to offer water to a baby younger than six months of age. After six months of age, a baby can have small sips of water. After 12 months, a baby can have as much water as they like. Breast milk provides all of the water a baby needs, even on a hot day. Water can disrupt the way a baby absorbs nutrients, can make a baby feel too full to eat and receive the nutrients they need, and too much water can lead to water intoxication. According to Stephen R. Daniels Pediatrician in a babycenter.com expert answer, “In rare cases, a baby who drinks too much water can develop a condition known as water intoxication, which can cause seizures and even a coma. Water intoxication happens when too much water dilutes the concentration of sodium in the body, upsetting the electrolyte balance and causing tissues to swell.”
Breastfeeding babies need extra vitamin D. This is not true. A baby stores vitamin D during the pregnancy and the amount that they receive from the mother’s breast milk after birth (unless the mother is vitamin D deficient) is plenty.
Breast milk does not contain enough iron. This is a common misconception that often convinces women to formula feed since they assume breast milk does not contain enough of what their baby needs and formula contains a lot of iron. Breast milk contains enough iron since breast milk is so easy for babies to digest. Their bodies are able to absorb the right amount of iron. Formula fed babies receive a large amount of iron in formula, but formula is not digested as easily as breast milk so babies end up passing a lot of it in their stools.
Breastfeeding is inconvenient and more difficult than formula feeding. This is a misconception, but it may feel true for women who do not receive adequate support and easy access to breastfeeding information and assistance. Breastfeeding is free. It requires no baby bottles, bottle nipples, cans of formula, bottled water, bottle warmer, bottle and nipple brush, etc. When you breastfeed, your baby’s food is always with you. Breast milk is always ready to eat at the right temperature and composition for your unique baby’s unique needs.
Modern infant formulas have come a long way and are virtually the same as breast milk anyway. Common sense can tell you that these claims are false. Formula is made for all babies in general, but every baby is unique and has their own special needs which breast milk can accommodate. According to Dr. Jack Newman in an article from breastfeeding.com, “Every correction of a deficiency in formulas is advertised as an advance. Fundamentally they are inexact copies based on outdated and incomplete knowledge of what breastmilk is. Formulas contain no antibodies, no living cells, no enzymes, no hormones. They contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium and iron than breastmilk. They contain significantly more protein than breastmilk. The proteins and fats are fundamentally different from those in breastmilk. Formulas do not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30, or from woman to woman, or from baby to baby… Your breastmilk is made as required to suit your baby. Formulas are made to suit every baby, and thus no baby. Formulas succeed only at making babies grow well, usually, but there is more to breastfeeding than getting the baby to grow quickly.”
A mother can not breastfeed while taking medication. This is false. You should discuss medications and breastfeeding with your doctor, but many medications are safe for breast milk.
If a woman has an infection, like mastitis, she should not nurse her baby from the infected breast. This is false. A mother can and should continue to nurse despite an infection. This will help with the infection and ensure that the mother will be able to continue nursing from the infected breast in the future.
All About Breastfeeding-Breastfeeding Myths Part 1 Newman, Jack Breastfeeding
Colostrum Science Daily
When can my baby drink water? Daniels, Stephen R. Baby Center
Mastitis Dr. Sears Ask Dr. Sears