Myths and Misconceptions About Breastfeeding Dispelled

Baby breastfeeding
Jennie Woodcock; Reflections Photolibrary / Getty Images

There are many misconceptions about breastfeeding out there. Here are 5 common breastfeeding myths dispelled.

Myth 1: Many Women Do Not Produce Enough Milk

Not true! The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. Indeed, an overabundance of milk is common. Most babies that gain too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The usual reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. This is why it is so important that the mother be shown, on the first day, how to latch a baby on properly, by someone who knows what they are doing.

Myth 2: It Is Normal for Breastfeeding to Hurt

Not true! Though some tenderness during the first few days is relatively common, this should be a temporary situation which lasts only a few days and should never be so bad that the mother dreads nursing. Any pain that is more than mild is abnormal and is almost always due to the baby latching on poorly. Any nipple pain that is not getting better by day 3 or 4 or lasts beyond 5 or 6 days should not be ignored. A new onset of pain when things have been going well for a while may be due to a yeast infection of the nipples. Limiting feeding time does not prevent soreness.

Myth 3: There Is No (Not Enough) Milk During the First 3 or 4 days After Birth

Not true! It often seems like that because the baby is not latched on properly and therefore is unable to get the milk. Once the mother's milk is abundant, a baby can latch on poorly and still may get plenty of milk. However, during the first few days, the baby who is latched on poorly cannot get milk, thus accounting for "but he's been on the breast for 2 hours and is still hungry when I take him off." By not latching on well, the baby is unable to get the mother's first milk, called colostrum.

Myth 4: A Baby Should Be on the Breast 20 (10, 15, 7.6) Minutes on Each Side

Not true! However, a distinction needs to be made between "being on the breast" and "breastfeeding." If a baby is actually drinking for most of 15-20 minutes on the first side, he may not want to take the second side at all. If he drinks only a minute on the first side, and then nibbles or sleeps and does the same on the other, no amount of time will be enough. The baby will breastfeed better and longer if he is latched on properly. He can also be helped to breastfeed longer if the mother compresses the breast to keep the flow of milk going, once he no longer swallows on his own. Thus the rule of thumb that "the baby gets 90% of the milk in the breast in the first 10 minutes" is wrong.

Myth 5: A Breastfeeding Baby Needs Extra Water in Hot Weather.

Not true! Breast milk contains all the water a baby needs.

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