Breastfeeding myths amaze me. Some myths are super persistent and are hard to make go away. Others go away, only to rear their ugly little heads at random. Two steps forward, one step back, I suppose.
So, let’s start on the most irritating ones:
- You need to toughen up your nipples- ARGH! This one MUST go away! Moms, you do not need to do anything extra to get your nipple toughened up. This awful little gem, in my opinion, was stupid advice doled out in an attempt to get pregnant moms so freaked out by the though of taking a hairbrush to their tender pregnancy nipples that they gave up on the idea of breastfeeding before baby was even born. Leave your nipples alone.
- If you have a drink or two, you need to pump and dump*- It’s a complete myth that if you have any alcohol, you have to pump out the “bad” milk until you get every trace of it out of your breastmilk. Breast milk is a blood product. The concentration of alcohol is never higher in breastmilk than it is in your blood, and as the levels fall in your bloodstream, the levels fall in your milk. Generally, the bigger danger from drinking alcohol won’t be from having it in your milk, but instead you will be dangerous as a mother and will not be sober enough to care for your baby safely. Not sure? Read some more guidelines here. (*Now, pumping and dumping might have to happen if you are away from your baby for a long period of time while you are out imbibing, but mostly for mom’s comfort, not to keep baby from ingesting alcohol in the milk. If you’re undergoing radiation treatments, you will have to pump and dump.)
- You can’t take the medication _____ while breastfeeding- Recently, it was estimated that ONE MILLION mothers quit or never started breastfeeding their babies because of incorrect advice about medication. When I was breastfeeding and needed to take a medication, I would always test my provider to see if he or she knew how to answer the question (even though I usually knew the answer because I had done my research). And sadly, often I had to teach THEM how to find the correct answer. Online, you can find some really good information on LactMed, You can call the VERY amazing InfantRisk Center, and you can also download apps for both on your smartphone. There is no excuse for care providers to not have this information literally at their fingertips. However, you know now, too, so spread the word that the answers to breastfeeding and medication questions are easy to find.
- If you exercise, it will make your milk “bad”- This is a complete, total, and utter falsehood. Truthfully? The last time I read it was in a book on breastfeeding published by a formula company. But, as always, stay hydrated (and this piece of advice is true even if you aren’t nursing!)
- What you eat or drink will help your supply- This is a holy grail for some, BUT THIS IS NOT TRUE! Even mother facing plague and famine are able to make plenty of milk for their babies, as are women who eat nothing but chips and drink soda all day. And for the most part, their milk will provide plenty of nutrition for their babies. Only a couple of things, such as vitamin K, won’t be in mom’s milk if she doesn’t have it in her diet. What will happen if mom has a poor diet? It will take a toll on how she feels, but that’s pretty much it. So mom will less able to cope with the demands of her baby, but the quantity and quality of milk will be largely unchanged. For more info, check this out.
- Fenugreek is totally fine to take to up supply- First of all, too many moms falsely think they don’t make enough milk for their babies. Some times, it’s more of an issue of mom not having a realistic idea of what a newborn’s needs are. So first, find out if you really might have a low supply. If you do, the best thing to do is to give baby more of a chance to breastfeed. But when it comes to herbs to increase supply, realize that they have potential side affects. And if you have peanut allergies in the family, do not take fenugreek. But really you could take all the herbs in the world and if you aren’t letting baby nurse often enough, your supply won’t go up. It’s supply equals demand, not supply equals Fenugreek.
I know more myths are out there. These were my easy ones. Truthfully, this is a hard thing to tackle, because some of them are so closely held by even strong breastfeeding supporters. Evidence on breastfeeding best practices have changed a lot in the last couple of years, which is why it’s VERY important to find someone who has extensive breastfeeding and lactation training (at least 45 hours) and has been staying current to help you if you have any problems. What other myths did I miss? Maybe I can tackle them in a future post.
Breastfeeding classes DO make a difference!!! For more info and to register, go here.