5 breastfeeding myths busted
When you have a newborn, there is no shortage of unsolicited advice from relatives, friends and even random strangers. Not all of it is good information, especially when it comes to breastfeeding.
One thing is true: It is one of the best things you can do for your baby and yourself.
“There are so many really great reasons to breastfeed,” says Dr. Stephanie Slock, a pediatrician and certified lactation consultant at the Women’s Pavilion at Aurora West Allis Medical Center. “The most beneficial thing about breast milk is that it has so many immunity-boosting, health-protecting substances in it that can’t be found in formula. These live cells and antibodies protect the infant by reducing the risk of stomach bugs, ear infections and colds in babies.”
Another great reason – it’s free. Most women will produce ample amounts of breast milk whether they plan on breastfeeding or not. “You’re going to make it anyway,” Dr. Slock says. “You don’t have to do anything extra. And it’s convenient.”
It also can help decrease your risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and post-menopausal osteoporosis.
But there is a lot of misinformation about breastfeeding, Dr. Slock says.
She addresses five common breastfeeding myths:
- Myth: Breastfeeding should hurt. “Absolutely not,” Dr. Slock says. “If it hurts that means there’s something wrong. You should seek help from your obstetrician, pediatrician, or a lactation consultant.”
- Myth: If you have small breasts, you won’t produce enough milk for your baby. Not true, says Dr. Slock. “Breast size affects storage capacity more than milk production,” she says. Women with larger breasts may be able to go longer between feedings or pumping, but small breasts do not cause issues with milk production.
- Myth: Breastfeeding will cause your breasts to sag. “Breastfeeding is probably not the cause,” Dr. Slock says. “It’s likely the pregnancy itself.” Hormonal changes and breast growth are normal changes during pregnancy. As the volume of the breasts returns to normal after the pregnancy, the skin doesn’t always come with it, causing sagging.
- Myth: You can’t eat spicy foods. Breastfeeding moms can eat and drink just about anything. “Certain foods may affect your infant and it’s important to take note. However, it’s different for all babies, just like it is for adults. A varied diet is important for nutrition purposes and can even help decrease the likelihood of a baby developing food allergies,” Dr. Slock says. Being thoughtful about when you consume alcohol and limiting caffeine intake is important as well, she says.
- Myth: You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. “There’s a lower likelihood of pregnancy if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. This generally means no supplementing with formula and feeding (or emptying the breast) more frequently than every six hours,” says Dr. Slock. “However, nothing is 100%. I’ve seen people get pregnant before getting their first period after pregnancy.” If you do not want to get pregnant, don’t rely exclusively on the fact that you’re breastfeeding.
If you are having issues breastfeeding, it’s important to find accurate information from a health care provider.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.