5 More Myths Concerning Breastfeeding Dispelled

Can Your Breast Milk Just Dry Up? Find Out Here

Mother holding newborn baby in arms.

Myths and misconceptions affect all areas of medicine including breastfeeding. Here we debunk some common myths and help you better understand breastfeeding.

Myth 1: Breast Milk Can "Dry up" Just Like That

Not true! Or if this can occur, it must be a rare occurrence. Aside from day to day and morning to evening variations, milk production does not change suddenly. There are changes which occur which may make it seem as if milk production is suddenly much less:

  • An increase in the needs of the baby, the so-called growth spurt. If this is the reason for the seemingly insufficient milk, a few days of more frequent nursing will bring things back to normal. Try compressing the breast with your hand to help the baby get milk.
  • A change in the baby's behavior. At about 5 to 6 weeks of age, babies who would fall asleep at the breast when the flow of milk slowed down, tend to start pulling at the breast or crying when the milk flow slows. The milk has not dried up, but the baby has changed. Try compressing the breast with your hand to help the baby get more milk.
  • The mother's breasts do not seem full or are soft. It is normal after a few weeks for the mother no longer to have engorgement or even fullness of the breasts. As long as the baby is drinking at the breast, do not be concerned.
  • The baby breastfeeds less well. This is often due to the baby being given bottles or pacifiers and thus learning an inappropriate way of breastfeeding.

The birth control pill may decrease your milk supply. Think about stopping the pill or changing to a progesterone only pill. Or use other methods like condoms.

If the baby truly seems not to be getting enough milk, get help, but do not introduce a bottle that may only make things worse. If absolutely necessary, the baby can be supplemented, using a lactation aid that will not interfere with breastfeeding. However, lots can be done before giving supplements. For example, try compressing the breast with your hand to help the baby get milk.

Myth 2: Physicians Know a Lot About Breastfeeding

Not true! Obviously, there are exceptions, and some physicians know about breastfeeding. However, very few physicians trained in North America or Western Europe learned anything at all about breastfeeding in medical school. Even fewer learned about the practical aspects of helping mothers start breastfeeding and helping them maintain breastfeeding. After medical school, most of the information physicians get regarding infant feeding comes from formula company representatives or advertisements.

Myth 3: There is No Such Thing as Nipple Confusion

Not true! A baby who is only bottle fed for the first two weeks of life, for example, will usually refuse to take the breast, even if the mother has an abundant supply. A baby who has had only the breast for 3 or 4 months is unlikely to take the bottle. Some babies prefer the right or left breast to the other. Bottle fed babies often prefer one artificial nipple to another. So there is such a thing as preferring one nipple to another. The only question is how quickly it can occur. Given the right set of circumstances, the preference can occur after one or two bottles. The baby having difficulties latching on may never have had an artificial nipple, but the introduction of an artificial nipple rarely improves the situation and often makes it much worse. Note that many who say there is no such thing as nipple confusion also advise the mother to start a bottle early so that the baby will not refuse it.

Myth 4: Breast Milk Given With Formula May Cause Problems for the Baby

Not true! Most breastfeeding mothers do not need to use formula and when problems arise that seem to require artificial milk, often the problems can be resolved without resorting to formula. However, when the baby may require formula, there is no reason that breast milk and formula cannot be given together.

Myth 5:  Babies Who Are Breastfed on Demand Are Likely to Be Colicky

Not true! "Colicky" breastfed babies often gain weight very quickly and sometimes are feeding frequently. However, many are colicky not because they are feeding frequently, but because they do not take the high-fat milk as well as they should. Typically, the baby drinks very well for the first few minutes, then nibbles or sleeps. When the baby is offered the other side, she will drink well again for a short while and then nibble or sleep. The baby will fill up with relatively low-fat milk and thus feed frequently. The taking in of mostly low-fat milk may also result in gas, crying, and explosive watery bowel movements. The mother can urge the baby to breastfeed longer on the first side and thus get more higher fat milk, by compressing the breast once the baby no longer actually swallows at the breast.

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