4 breastfeeding misconceptions debunked

4 breastfeeding misconceptions debunked

In 2011, the United States Breastfeeding Committee declared August to be National Breastfeeding Month. The committee campaigns for breastfeeding, a topic around which there are many myths and misconceptions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of complementary foods for at least one year. However, less than 50 percent of infants were exclusively breastfed through three months and about 25 percent were exclusively breastfed through six months. These rates suggest that mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members, and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Freund, an Advocate nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., clarifies some common misconceptions of the ease and benefits to breastfeeding.

  1. Fiction: Breastfeeding is going to hurt. Fact: If done correctly, breastfeeding should not hurt. With the proper positioning of the infant and the proper latch, mom should not have nipple pain or discomfort. Latching issues are the most common cause of pain. Moms should not be experiencing pain and should address any complications immediately by visiting a lactation consultant for an evaluation of the latch.
  2. Fiction: Breast size determines milk supply. Fact: Breast size does not determine milk supply. Small-breasted women can be equally as successful as large-breasted women. Breasts generally have about the same number of ducts, or milk producing capacity; large breasts have more fat. “Only about 10 percent of women have difficulty with milk supply,” says Freund. “Moms who nurse frequently in the hospital without formula supplement and continue nursing at home without introducing a bottle unless medically necessary have the best success with milk supply.”
  3. Fiction: Because breastfeeding is natural, mothers are just able to figure it all out after the baby is born. No breastfeeding classes are necessary. Fact: Mothers who attend breastfeeding classes are more successful meeting their breastfeeding goals because the classes provide information on how to ensure baby is getting enough milk and for proper breastfeeding timing and frequency. The evolution of breastfeeding has changed in the modern world, with mothers needing to return to work after six to 12 weeks. A breastfeeding class can help teach new parents how to properly pump and prepare for mom’s return to work.
  4. Fiction: Newborn babies do not get enough milk because mom is not producing enough. Fact: During the “golden hour”, or first hour after birth, mothers should initiate breastfeeding because it is helpful with milk production, stabilizing baby and bonding. In the first few weeks, babies eat frequently and sometimes prefer to nurse at night. Many moms assume their baby is not receiving enough milk due to the frequency they want to nurse. This is normal for a nursing baby. “Moms should note that at birth, babies’ stomachs are about the size of a cherry. At one month, the baby’s stomach grows to the size of a chicken’s egg,” says Freund. “Most mothers are capable of producing milk with the proper early breast stimulations. Breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth to be most successful.” The amount of milk a breast pump is able to retrieve is not a good indicator of the total amount in the breast. Most babies can extract more milk than a pump, so mothers are often producing more milk than they realize.

Have questions?

Mothers should refer to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding class for the best breastfeeding education. Advocate Christ Medical Center and other Advocate hospitals offer lactation services for new and expecting mothers, including breastfeeding classes for mothers who are in their third trimester. For more information, click here.

Related Posts



  1. 1. Sorry, fact. And you can shove your “you’re not doing it right” crap up your, well, you know. I breastfed both kids for a few months and it hurt like hell the whole time, both times. I went to several different consultants, nurses, groups, you name it. Nothing changed. IT HURT. So STFU just because some women’s experience is not your experience.

  2. I have to agree with Dienne. My wife had an incredibly tough time breastfeeding and it made her feel a level of shame she has never experienced. All the information out there points to such an easy process if “done right” and that’s not an honest message at all and I think really does a disservice. The honest message should be, “yeah there are a lot of benefits to breastfeeding so we encourage it, but women…it is going to hurt like hell for the first few weeks. Hopefully it gets better, but it may not. If it doesn’t, use formula to help and don’t be ashamed.” With the women I know in my life, messages like this have done so much more harm than good. As the man who was there helping her get through all of the physical and emotional issues I couldn’t help but think what a terrible racket it is for so many women to just be blindsided by how hard breastfeeding actually is. Give women the truth so they can decide what is best for them and how to deal with the real issues and stop with all the flowery “everything is great and don’t be stressed” speeches.

  3. Lets stop saying that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt, There is a certain level of discomfort, especially in the beginning or when the baby first latches on. With the hormonal changes, the breasts are more sensitive so some women are very sensitive to touch. Furthermore, if someone has inverted nipples, it hurts while the baby brings them out. Overtime, it gets easier, but to say it doesn’t hurt at all is not true for everyone, even with a perfect latch.

  4. Karen Shinville, MS, IBCLC August 23, 2018 at 3:22 pm · Reply

    Dienne, Mark and Anna all make valid points. Every woman’s breastfeeding experience is unique, just like every pregnancy and delivery experience is unique. Many moms feel discomfort/pain that can continue for a week or two, but it should be felt primarily at the moment of latch and should then (typically) subside to tolerable/comfortable levels. A tugging sensation will always be felt. Women can have an incredibly tough time if there is excessive pain, and may feel shame or guilt, as if they have done something wrong. I’ve known women that have felt this way for years (decades) afterwards. I believe moms need to know that many factors influence the potential discomfort/pain of breastfeeding (high palatal arch? a yeast infection due to antibiotic use? a posterior tongue tie not readily visible? etc…) – factors that a trained eye might be able to detect and help to resolve. Susan is correct that complications should be addressed to see if there is a path towards resolution. If not, sometimes it is better for moms to pump and feed, or to formula feed. Moms: Success shouldn’t be measured by circumstances that are out of your control. There is no one size fits all approach to any part of the childbirth experience, and all are supported by Advocate staff 100%. We love babies!

  5. Thank you! Thank you for this article. Women (myself included) often focus so much on the birth experience and do not realize that the breastfeeding experience often requires education as well. Breastfeeding is a learned process for mother and baby and the challenges change as the baby grows. It is not always “instantly wonderful” and may take several months before mothers feel confident and comfortable. A guided support group where mothers can talk to other moms can be extremely helpful.

  6. I breastfed three children, the first two for a year and the third for 20 months. Both of my nipples are inverted. My first couldn’t latch until he was almost six weeks old. My second was gulping down milk by the time he was three days old.
    For all three, breastfeeding was painful for the first two months. I would bite on the corner of a receiving blanket at every latch. I tell new moms I meet to expect some pain in the beginning, but to stick with it because the rewards for continued breastfeeding for me outweighed the initial trials and tribulations (and there were many). As a new mom, I’d rather expect to have to overcome some difficulties rather than being told my pain and frustration is because I’m not “doing it right.” I think it’s healthier for a new mother’s psyche to expect to have to persevere, but to know that it will pay off eventually.
    Bringing a life into this world is a blessing and a gift. While I 100% support breastfeeding and marvel at it as a miracle of nature, that should not detract from the most important miracle: bringing a new life into this world!! Every mother should be proud of such an achievement, regardless of a comparatively minor detail such as nourishment.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Allison Garetto
Allison Garetto

Allison Garetto, health enews contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a senior at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where she is pursuing a degree in communication and a minor in psychology. Allison is a vegetarian, artist and travel enthusiast.