With so much information floating around the internet about breastfeeding, it can be hard to know what is true and what is a myth. I’ll break down eight of the most common breastfeeding myths so you can tell fact from fiction! Keep reading for the bonus myth at the end.
It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.
This is a very popular myth. There are even ideas out there that you should “toughen up” your nipples during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding. Rubbing your nipples with sandpaper is NOT necessary… really, please don’t do that!
Pain while breastfeeding may be common, but that doesn’t make it normal. It can be a new, sometimes uncomfortable feeling as you and your body adjusts to nursing (or pumping for) your new baby, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding your baby, you might need some troubleshooting to make it more comfortable. And if you ever experience toe-curling, intense pain, please talk to an IBCLC or your medical provider!
You can’t eat onions (or garlic, broccoli, chocolate,etc…) while breastfeeding.
People say that you have to eat a bland diet while you’re breastfeeding. No onions, garlic, spicy food, chocolate, broccoli… But the truth is, breastmilk is made from your blood, not your stomach contents. And besides, your baby already got a taste of the foods you eat regularly in utero through the amniotic fluid. Science even says that your baby may like foods more that they taste through breast milk!
In some cases, babies have an allergy or intolerance to something in breast milk, such as dairy, soy, or wheat. If you suspect your baby isn’t reacting well to something in your milk, consult your medical provider and consider keeping track of your diet and baby’s symptoms.
Breastfeeding is “all or nothing.”
This myth is absolutely NOT true. Breastfeeding is an amazing thing and any amount that your baby receives is beneficial. But it is fine if you need or want to give your baby formula, supplement with donor milk, or pump and give your breast milk in bottles. It’s also okay if you breastfeed for a while and then stop – even one teaspoon of colostrum is shown to have benefits for babies. You are doing a great job, regardless. Breastfeeding does NOT have to be all or nothing.
Only people with large breasts can breastfeed.
Good news – breast size doesn’t affect whether or not you can breastfeed! Milk production is not based on the size of the breasts. Someone with an A cup can produce as much milk as someone with a DD cup. Having smaller breasts doesn’t mean you will not be able to make “enough” milk… and having larger breasts is not a guarantee that you will be an overproducer or make “too much” milk.
You can’t continue to breastfeed your baby if you go back to work/school.
You can absolutely continue to breastfeed if you’re planning to return to work, start a new job, go to school, or otherwise be away from your baby! Many parents pump and provide breast milk for their babies when they are apart. Some parents feed their baby with donor milk, formula, previously pumped milk, or a combination. Pumping to provide enough milk for your baby during the times you’re not together can be a lot of work, but people do it every day!
You shouldn’t breastfeed in public.
Personally, I think this is the silliest myth of the bunch. Do people think babies just don’t get hungry outside of their home?! Babies need to eat, just the same as everyone else. Don’t be afraid to feed your baby in public!
How you feed your baby in public is really up to you – it’s a personal preference. Some people prefer to find a private space, such as a nursing room or the car. (Don’t assume you just have to do it in the bathroom – there are better options!) Others prefer to use a lightweight blanket or nursing cover/scarf. Sometimes people buy clothes designed for breastfeeding that provide easy access and generally keep it somewhat covered. Another option is to use the “two shirt method” of having one shirt underneath and pulling the other up to give baby access to the breast, leaving your breast mostly covered. And others are totally fine breastfeeding with no cover at all. There are some people who prefer to give baby a bottle in public so they don’t have to deal with breastfeeding.
All of these options – and any others that you come up with – are totally valid, and totally okay. Do what you’re comfortable with and need to do to make sure your baby is fed and happy!
You can’t breastfeed your baby if you take medications.
The majority of medications are safe for breastfeeding. There are some that are contraindicated, but if your plan is to breastfeed, be sure to talk to a medical professional or IBCLC about any medications you’re taking. LactMed (website & app) and Infant Risk (website, app, & hotline) are great options for learning about how medications interact with breastfeeding.
You should only breastfeed your baby until… (enter milestone here.)
Everybody has an opinion about breastfeeding and is more than willing to offer it up. Some people say that you should only breastfeed your baby until they can talk, until they eat “real” foods, until they can walk, until their first birthday…and the list goes on.
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
What do I think? I think that breastfeeding is a relationship between you and your child. You should breastfeed for as long as it is mutually beneficial. Sometimes that simply means providing colostrum for your baby for the first hour after birth. It could mean breastfeeding until your baby turns one. Or it may mean breastfeeding into toddlerhood and beyond. It is a decision for you to make, and nobody else.
Bonus myth: You’re a bad parent if you don’t breastfeed.
I know sometimes it feels like you can’t do anything right, especially if you can’t or don’t breastfeed your baby. There’s a lot of shaming out there. But it’s not true. You’re a great parent, no matter how you feed your baby.
What do you think of these breastfeeding myths?
Contact me if you have questions!