The Facts About 9 Breastfeeding Myths

What's True and What's Not

When you're pregnant or right after you have your baby, well-meaning friends and family may give want to give you some breastfeeding advice. But, that advice may not always be based on the truth. Many new breastfeeding moms don't question what their more experienced friends and family members tell them. It can get confusing. Well, it's time to bust some breastfeeding fiction with a little reality. Here are the facts about nine common breastfeeding myths.

1

You Won't Make Enough Breast Milk If Your Breasts Don't Grow During Pregnancy

Mother holding little baby on bed
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No, no, no! Not being able to make enough breast milk is very rare. Only a small percentage of women who have milk supply problems say that their breasts did not change in size during pregnancy. More often than not, women with small breasts and those whose breasts do not seem to grow during pregnancy can still make plenty of breast milk. If you are in the minority, and not producing enough, there are many ways to boost your breast milk supply, so don't give up!

2

You Have to Wash Your Nipples Before You Breastfeed

Mother breastfeeding baby
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Not at all! Breastfeeding is different than bottle feeding for many reasons, so this myth comes from the use of bottles. You must wash bottle nipples before you use them because they can harbor bacteria which can contaminate infant formula or pumped breast milk. But, it isn't the same for breastfeeding. Putting the baby to the breast actually helps to prevent infection. Aside from the fact that washing your nipples before every feeding adds about 12 extra steps to your day, it also takes away important oils from the Montgomery glands that lubricate and protect from the nipple.

3

Don't Breastfeed If You Have Bleeding Nipples or Blood in Your Breast Milk

Baby bottle with milk in front of a pink background
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Nope! You may see blood in your baby's spit up, and blood may even show up in his bowel movements, but this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Even if your nipples are terribly painful and bleeding, it is no worse for the baby than if you have sore nipples that are not bleeding. Sometimes mothers have Rusty Pipe Syndrome. With this condition, blood from the milk ducts gets into the breast milk, but it doesn't necessarily cause any pain. This situation is OK, and it is not harmful if the baby drinks the rusty orange-pink colored breast milk. It's safe to continue to breastfeed. If it's rusty pipes, then the bleeding should stop after the first week postpartum. If it doesn't, see your doctor, but you should still keep breastfeeding.

4

You Should Not Breastfeed If You Smoke

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It may sound like it's going against the grain, but this is not true. Do doctors recommend that you smoke when you're breastfeeding? Of course not. But a mom who simply cannot stop smoking can still breastfeed. The truth is that breastfeeding provides moms and babies with excellent health benefits even if a mom smokes. Breastfeeding actually decreases the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on the baby's lungs. Again, it's best not to smoke, but if it's nearly impossible to stop or cut down on smoking, then it is better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and bottle feed with infant formula.

5

Do Not Breastfeed After You Exercise

Woman stretching outdoors
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Not true. While you may want to use this as a good excuse to skip out on exercising while you're breastfeeding, there's no validity to this at all. There is no reason that you can't breastfeed after you work out. The belief that babies refuse the breast after a mom has worked out is probably because there is a lot of salty sweat on the areola and the nipple. The taste of the salt isn't as nice as the sweet breast milk. So, all you have to do is take a shower or wipe yourself down if you see that your baby is responding in such a way. If it doesn't seem to bother your baby, you can continue with your great workouts and breastfeeding plans!

6

Stop Breastfeeding If You're Baby Has Diarrhea

Mother changing a newborn diaper
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Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, breastfeeding is the ideal "medicine" for a sick child since there are factors within the breast milk that protect his gastrointestinal system and help to fight off the illness. Your breast milk also provides your baby with necessary fluids to prevent dehydration. And, of course, it's a great source of comfort

7

You Can't Breastfeed for 24 Hours After You Get a Vaccine

A health care professional giving an injection
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False. If your child is healthy, there is no reason to stop breastfeeding after getting any immunization. There is absolutely zero risk to the baby. The truth is, your baby may benefit from the vaccine. However, you have to be careful if your child has an immune deficiency. If this is the case, you should not receive any vaccinations that contain a weakened live virus such as oral polio (not injectable), or measles, mumps, and rubella.

8

There Is Not Enough Iron in Breast Milk for Your Baby

Mother breastfeeding a newborn
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Wrong. Breast milk contains the perfect amount of iron for your baby. Full-term babies who are exclusively breastfed receive enough iron from breast milk to last through the first six months of life. It is not necessary to give other iron-rich foods to the baby before she turns six months old. However, after the sixth month, your child's iron stores will begin to drop. At that time, you should start offering solid foods and adding iron to her diet.

9

You Can Wake Up One Day and Your Breast Milk Will Be Completely Gone

Woman holding an infant
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Not likely. Losing your breast milk all at once is extremely rare. Your milk supply fluctuates throughout the day and some days you may feel fuller than others, but it doesn't just drop off the face of the earth overnight. Usually, it takes a while for your supply of breast milk to wane. Some women completely wean their babies and still see breast milk for a year! If you find that the amount of breast milk you're producing seems low, talk to your doctor or see a lactation consultant. These professionals can assess your situation and help you to build your milk supply back where it should be.

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Article Sources
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.
  • Eidelman, A. I., Schanler, R. J., Johnston, M., Landers, S., Noble, L., Szucs, K., & Viehmann, L. Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Section on Breastfeeding. 2012. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.