Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children

Myths and Facts About Breastfeeding

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MYTH

FACT

1.    

Formula is as good as human milk.

Human milk is far superior and cannot be duplicated.  The nutrients and antibodies in human milk are uniquely suited to the physical and mental development of the human baby.  Human milk contains human growth factors while formula based on cow’s milk contains bovine growth factors. The composition of human milk changes during a feeding and as baby grows to meet baby’s changing needs. 

2.    

Women should not breastfeed in front of other people.

Breastfeeding is normal and natural and in New Jersey, women have a legal right to breastfeed in public places.

Women who are shy about breastfeeding in public can practice how to feed discretely in front of a mirror to gain confidence. 

3.    

If the mother has to go back to work or school, she should not start out breastfeeding.

Many women continue to breastfeed after returning to work or school.  They exclusively breastfeed while on maternity leave then express or pump their milk to leave when they are separated.  If the mother continues to breastfed after returning to work or school, her baby will be healthier and she will be doing something special that no one else can do for her baby. Some women choose formula for when they are separated and breastfeed when she and baby are together.  Any breastfeeding is better than none. 

4.    

The breastfeeding mother has to change the way she eats.

There is no special “breastfeeding diet” or list of foods to avoid.

Most women can eat the same foods they are used to eating.

The mother will make good milk no matter what foods she eats.

Mothers around the world eat spicy, flavorful food.  Of course, it is best for the mother to eat a variety of nutritious foods to stay healthy.

5.    

If the mother is sick, she has to stop breastfeeding.

If mother gets sick, her baby has already been exposed to her illness and mother's milk will have antibodies to protect the baby.  If baby does get sick, the illness is likely to be less severe.  Mothers can breastfeed if they have a cold or flu.  Mothers should not breastfeed if they have HIV, active untreated tuberculosis, or HTLV‑1.  Most over the counter and prescription medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.

6.    

Women who smoke should not breastfeed.

All women are encouraged to stop smoking or at least cut down.  It is better for the baby if the mother smokes and breastfeeds than it is if the mother smokes and does not breastfeed.  It is the secondhand smoke that causes babies to have more health problems than what is passed through the milk.  No one should smoke while holding a baby or in a car or the same room as a baby.  Mothers who smoke should time it for after a feeding, not before.

7.    

Breastfeeding mothers cannot drink alcohol.

Breastfeeding mothers can have alcoholic beverages occasionally.

Women who abuse alcohol (more than two drinks a day or binge drinkers) should not breastfeed.

8.    

Many women do not produce enough milk.

Milk is made whenever milk is removed from the breast.   The more effectively the baby feeds, the more milk the mother will make.  Mothers can exclusively breastfed twins and even triplets.  Mothers naturally produce milk after babies are born and they need confidence in their own bodies.  They also need information and support to manage breastfeeding in the early days.  Small breasts can make enough milk for the baby.  Supply comes from the demand.  There are only two medical circumstances that may result in a woman having a low milk supply (physical anomaly and hormone imbalance).

9.    

Some mothers have milk that is not rich enough to satisfy baby.

Human milk has all the calories, nutrients and fats babies need.

Because human milk is so easy to digest and newborn stomachs are so small, newborns feed 10 to 12 times in 24 hours.  Human milk does not and should not look like formula or cow's milk.

10.    

Combination feeding ensures the baby is getting enough.

Babies are born to exclusively breastfeed.  Giving formula in normal circumstances in addition to breastfeeding can result in overfeeding, reducing the mother’s milk supply, and increasing all the known risks of formula. 

11.    

There is no milk until the third day after delivery.

Milk is already in the breasts when the baby is born.  The first milk is called colostrum (see the next myth).  Colostrum is measured in teaspoons, not ounces.  The breasts are soft in the first few days after delivery so the baby can learn how to breastfeed.

12.    

The first milk (colostrum) is bad for the baby.

Colostrum is rich in the nutrients and antibodies essential to newborns.  It is concentrated and helps the baby’s bowels to pass the first stools.  Colostrum is the perfect first food for human newborns. 

13.    

Breastfed babies need water bottles.

Human milk is about 87% water, just what a body needs.  Even in the desert, breastfed babies do not need additional water.

14.    

Family members should give bottles so they can bond with the baby.

Family and friends can bond with the baby by holding, burping, bathing, talking to and playing with baby.  Bottles can interfere with the establishment of the mother’s milk supply and the baby learning how to breastfeed. 

15.    

Breastfeeding makes the baby too dependent on the mother.

Loving, holding, and meeting baby's needs make him feel secure and help him to become independent.  All babies need to develop a strong attachment to one person first before they expand their circle of attachments.

16.    

Breastfeeding hurts.

Breastfeeding should not hurt.  It hurts when baby’s jaws close on the nipple.  When correctly positioned, the baby’s tongue covers the lower gum line, and his gums close on the areola (the dark area).  Baby should not have to turn his head to reach the nipple. When done correctly, mother may feel a slight tug. 

17.    

Breastfeeding is hard work and makes the mother overly tired.

Just being a mother is tiring and stressful.  Breastfeeding saves work and lets mother rest while feeding her baby.  The breastfeeding hormones make the mother feel peaceful and relaxed.

18.    

A mother's milk will go bad if it stays in her breast or if she gets scared or angry.

Human milk is always fresh and cannot spoil in the breast. 

Feelings cannot change the composition of human milk.

If a mother is upset, her milk flow may be slower but the milk is fine.

19.    

Pumping is a good way of knowing how much milk the mother has.

Pumping only shows how much milk can be pumped with that particular pump at that time.  Swallowing, wet diapers, frequent stools and weight gain are better guides to baby's intake.

20.    

Breastfeeding makes the breasts sag.

Pregnancy, heredity, and aging cause the breasts to sag, not breastfeeding. 

21.    

A mother needs to clean her nipples before breastfeeding.

The nipple area has natural protective oils to keep it germ free. 

Both soap and alcohol irritate the nipples and should be avoided.  Mothers only need to rinse the breasts with water once a day.

22.    

Breastfeeding causes sexual stimulation.

Breastfeeding is a pleasurable experience but does not cause sexual feelings.

23.    

Breastfeeding is natural so there is no need to learn about it.

Breastfeeding is a skill learned by practice.  Mothers are more likely to succeed when they have information, help from others, and support.

24.    

All health care providers know a lot about breastfeeding.

Practical aspects of breastfeeding were not always included in medical training.  Health care providers vary greatly in the advice they give on breastfeeding.  Women are encouraged to learn about breastfeeding by reading and attending breastfeeding classes and support groups such as La Leche League of New Jersey.

Back to Breastfeeding Support Page


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Last Modified: Thursday, 12-Jul-12 15:18:04