Mythbusters: Breastfeeding Edition – #WBW12

We asked some mamas what some myths are that they’ve been told/heard over the years.  We’ve done our best to find reliable resources to BUST those MYTHS!  Now I know we aren’t the real Mythbusters.  We can’t actually blow anything up or set anything on fire, which is kind of a bummer.  But we hope you enjoy reading and sharing these, and together we can spread some great information about breastfeeding!

Myth #1:  Many moms are told that they are more prone to sore nipples if they are very fair-skinned, redheads, etc.
Verdict? BUSTED!  According to Kellymom.com, most of the sore nipples occur because of a less than perfect latch and/or position. If you do experience pain, get help with that latch!  No one should have to nurse through pain, no matter what color your skin.

Myth #2:  If you breastfeed during pregnancy, you could have a miscarriage and/or put your unborn child at risk.
Verdict? BUSTED! La Leche League says “Breastfeeding during pregnancy is perfectly safe. As long as you eat reasonably well, then your unborn baby will not be deprived of nutrients.  [In addition], the amount of oxytocin normally released during breastfeeding (the hormone that also stimulates labor) is not usually enough to cause the cervix to open before it is ready to do so.”

Myth #3: Everything goes to your milk so you just have to suffer through that headache.
Related Myth: That certain foods make milk gassy.
Verdict? BUSTED! “Food is rarely problematic – and that includes beans, spices, cabbages, citrus, and common allergens” says Baby Center.  You’ll want to be careful with the herbs you take in though.  “As with pharmaceutical medications, herbs can get into breast milk and affect your milk supply and possibly your baby.”  Many medications are very safe to take while breastfeeding.  If your doctor prescribes a medication, it might help you to look it up yourself to find out if it’s safe.  You can find info on medication safety at LactMed or by calling Dr. Thomas Hale’s InfantRisk Center: (806)-352-2519.  Dr. Hale also has a nifty smartphone app with info on medications and breastfeeding.

Myth #4:  Breastmilk is no longer nutritional after 12 months.
Verdict? BUSTED! “Breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues” per Kellymom.com.  As babies grow, the milk grows with them.  Toddler milk is high in healthy fats and proteins and is a perfect source of complete nutrition for picky toddlers who will some times refuse to eat anything except a bowl of apple sauce and a cracker in a day!

Myth #5:  Breastfed babies get more ear infections because they eat lying down.
Verdict? BUSTED! Quite the opposite!  Mother-2-Mother.com recommends breastfeeding to decrease the risk of ear infections due to the “forward suckling action”.  The immunological properties of breastmilk also protect babies from colds and other illnesses that can lead to ear infections.

Myth #6:  Breastfeeding helps you lose weight.
Verdict? PLAUSIBLE. Studies have shown that women who breastfeed exclusively have a better chance to lose weight 6 months after giving birth.  Some women retain the weight because they may have gained more weight than recommended during pregnancy per WebMD.  While this doesn’t happen for all women, it can be a benefit for those who experience it.  Here’s a study from the USDA website about this.  Bottom line? If you aren’t losing weight, you aren’t doing anything wrong. If you are losing weight, you also aren’t doing anything wrong.

Myth #7: Breastfed children “never get sick”.
Verdict? MIXED. Breastfed babies do sometimes get sick, but it happens far less often.  According to Dr. Sears, “A drop of breastmilk contains around one million white blood cells. These cells, called macrophages (“big eaters”), gobble up germs. Breastmilk is also power-packed with immunoglobulin A (IgA), which coats the lining of babies’ immature intestines, preventing germs from leaking through. Secretory IgA also works to prevent food allergies. By coating the intestinal lining like a protective paint, it prevents molecules of foreign foods from getting into the bloodstream to set up an allergic reaction.”

Myth #8: Colostrum is poisonous and babies shouldn’t breastfeed until it’s gone.
Verdict? BUSTED!  “Colostrum, the milk mothers produce in the first few days after birth, is especially rich in IgA, just at the time when the newborn is first exposed to the outside world and needs protection from germs and foreign substances entering his body. Colostrum also contains higher amounts of white blood cells and infection-fighting substances than mature milk. Think of colostrum as your baby’s first important immunization.” (Dr. Sears)  We here at Mamas At Work think of colostrum as liquid gold!  It is wonderful and amazing stuff!

Myth: Nurse 20 minutes on each side to make sure your baby gets enough.
Related Myths: Switch sides frequently! or You must nurse from both sides.
Verdict? BUSTED! There’s an old saying that holds true when you’re nursing: Watch the baby, not the clock. Time at the breast can vary from baby to baby or even from hour to hour.  Sometimes a baby wants a 5 minute speed nurse, and other times he or she may wish to enjoy a gourmet meal.  Timing feeds can limit a baby’s access to milk, and cutting short a feed may mean that a baby isn’t able to get that wonderful, fatty hind milk that comes at the end of the feeding.  Here’s what Kellymom.com has to say about foremilk and hindmilk.  When it comes to switching sides (switch nursing – see bullets 4 and 5), this can be beneficial if you are seeking to boost your milk production, but it is important to let your baby finish with the side before switching. On the flip side, if you have a very abundant supply, your baby may only need to nurse on one side at each feeding.

Myth: That if your baby wants to nurse every hour, you aren’t producing enough milk.
Verdict? BUSTED! Newborns nurse. A lot. Breast milk easily digestible because it is so perfect for their tiny systems. Additionally, in the early weeks, babies are working hard to set up your supply for the entire time they are nursing!  The more you nurse your baby in the early days, the more milk you will produce later on!   Unfortunately, this normal newborn behavior is often misinterpreted and moms believe that they don’t have enough. Here is a great write-up from Kellymom.com about normal newborn behavior and what to expect in those early weeks.  La Leche League also recommends allowing babies unlimited time at the breast.

Myth: You can tell how much milk you are making by how much you pump.
Verdict? BUSTED! Okay, working mamas, here’s the deal: some of us just don’t perform well for a pump. Hooking up to a plastic contraption and thinking happy thoughts just doesn’t work as well as snuggling a sweet baby. For this reason, pump output should never be taken as a measure of how much milk you produce.  According to Kellymom.com, the average breastfeeding woman “can express between ONE and THREE oz per pumping session (not per breast, per session).

Myth: Lots of women just don’t make enough milk for their babies.
Verdict? BUSTED! All but a very small percentage of women with specific medical issues could produce enough milk for their children if they are given adequate support.  That’s the big key.  Support.  So many moms encounter normal situations that are misinterpreted as signs of low supply.  Check out this handy article from Kellymom.com for a list of things that are not signs of low milk supply: Is Your Milk Supply Really Low?

Myth: You have to drink milk to make milk.
Verdict? BUSTED! Nope. Cows certainly don’t need to drink milk to make milk.  Neither do goats, wolves, tigers, or orangutans.  La Leche League addresses this in their own Breastfeeding Myths article (myth 12).  We recommend reading this entire article as it’s got some great information!

What are some other myths that you’ve heard?  Tweet with us about it using #BFMyths. Don’t forget to include @mamasatwork in your tweet!

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