Breastfeeding Myths, Busted
Almost everyone has an opinion on how you should raise your child, and they’re all going to give it to you. The funny thing is, half the caring advice that friends, relatives, and even strangers nudge in your direction is misguided, outdated, or just plain wrong. Here, we tackle some common myths about breastfeeding and explain why you should just smile and nod the next time you hear them.
Myth #1: Many mothers don’t produce enough milk
The key word here is many. The vast majority of women will absolutely produce enough milk, as long as they keep at it. Remember, your body is hard-wired to produce enough for your baby’s needs; the more you feed, the more you produce. It’s actually very rare for a woman not to produce enough milk, and usually these are instances when the mother suffers from malnutrition. And it’s normal for newborns to be hungry every two hours; it doesn’t mean they’re not getting enough food. If you’re still anxious, be assured that wet diapers six to eight times a day and steady weight gain mean your baby is getting enough milk.
Myth #2: The first breast milk that appears is dirty and shouldn’t be given to the baby
Now this one is just plain scary, and please don’t take any further advice from any person who tells you this! The first breast milk your body produces after delivery is called colostrum, and it is rich in nutrients and antibodies that are essential for the baby. It’s so good for the baby that it’s often called ‘liquid gold’; it helps develop the baby’s immune and digestive systems. Trust Mother Nature: There’s a reason your body is producing colostrum, and it’s definitely not so you can throw it away.
Myth #3: You shouldn’t breastfeed if you’re ill
Having a baby doesn’t give you a magic shield against illnesses. Common ailments like a cold, flu, or upset stomach shouldn’t stop you from breastfeeding, because you can’t pass them along to the baby through the milk. Babies can still catch your illness from breath or touch, but breastfeeding actual helps in this case: milk contains antibodies that will actually protect your baby from germs.
However, you shouldn’t breastfeed if you have HIV or AIDS, are taking antiretroviral medication, have active untreated tuberculosis, or are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
Myth #4: Drinking extra water will increase your milk supply
Breastfeeding moms don’t need to drink extra fluids to compensate for nursing, and drinking more water won’t increase your milk supply. That said, it is still important to remain as hydrated as you would normally be, which is about eight, large glasses of water per day. Also, don’t forget that breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which can make you feel thirstier.
Myth #5: The baby will not go back to the breast after trying a bottle
Introducing the bottle doesn’t mean that the baby will never drink from your breast again. Every baby is different, and while some babies can go back and forth easily, some will find it a little more difficult. There are plenty of babies who drink expressed milk from a bottle when mom is at work and then drink from the breast when she’s at home. There is no universal rule, and it just depends on your baby.
Myth #6: Breastfeeding is effective birth control
Some people learn this the hard way: Breastfeeding is 98% effective as birth control if your baby is exclusively breastfed and you still haven’t gotten your period—but meet only one of those criteria and that figure changes. If you want to avoid getting pregnant, it’s best to start using birth control as soon as you either introduce formula or get your period again.