As with many topics there is a lot of misinformation out there about breastfeeding. Many of these myths can actually be harmful to your breastfeeding success! In this post we shed the light on 7 Breastfeeding Myths so you can be more informed and not do something silly like pump and dump your precious liquid gold. Want to know more about where to get help, when you should stop breastfeeding, and if you can get pregnant while breastfeeding? Find out below and let us know about your favorite…or least favorite breastfeeding myth in the comments.
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1. breastfeeding is easy
I, like a lot of women, was under the impression that breastfeeding is easy before I had my daughter. In reality, breastfeeding is a delicate dance that is often full of hurdles and pitfalls to be overcome. Support is definitely key to success. I talk extensively about my journey and ways to prepare yourself in How to set yourself up for Breastfeeding success.
The truth is that like many things breastfeeding comes easier to some mother than others, and easier to some babies than others. If you have more than one child your breastfeeding journey may be completely different with each. It often can take a lot of will and quite a bit of help to successfully breastfeed. It’s not for everyone and some women may need to choose to switch to formula for a variety of reasons. Only you can know what’s right for you and your child. Just don’t ever quit on a bad day!
2. fenugreek will magically increase your supply
Fenugreek is a commonly suggested supplement to take to increase your milk production/supply. In some cases, Fenugreek does work, although it can make your milk smell a little funny. However, Fenugreek can sometimes have the opposite effect and actually decrease your milk supply! So, if you decide to try Fenugreek introduce it slowly and see how it effects you. You may not even need any supplements!
3. if baby is nursing frequently you are not producing enough milk
It’s actually not very common that a mother is not producing enough milk for her baby, but it’s often the first thing suggested if a baby is fussy, whiny, nursing frequently, not gaining weight fast enough, etc. etc. etc. So starts a long line of things that people will immediately try to blame on the mother.
It is actually normal for a baby to nurse frequently, especially in the early days. You may feel like your baby becomes a 5th appendage as they are attached to you so often. (Don’t worry, they do get faster and more efficient at nursing as they get older.) This is commonly referred to as cluster feeding. It’s how babies help to increase your supply to prepare for a growth spurt, or they may be in a growth or development spurt. Babies also do not only nurse because of hunger, they also nurse for comfort, for bonding, because their tummy hurts, etc.
When should you be concerned about your supply? If your baby is not having regular wet and dirty diapers you should be concerned. If your baby is not gaining weight properly you should be concerned. The only way to see if you are making enough milk, and just to give yourself some peace of mind, is to do what’s called a weigh-feed-weigh. To do this you need to visit with a lactation consultant or IBCLC, they also generally are able to do these at breastfeeding support groups. They will have a specialized scale for infants and you will strip your baby down and put on a fresh diaper, weigh your baby, feed your baby, and then weigh your baby and the diaper again. This will tell you how many ounces your baby transferred.
Pumping is also not a good indicator of supply. An infant is much better at getting milk out than a pump. Many women don’t respond well to a pump and you really have to play with the settings and flange sizes to get everything just right. If you want to learn more about pumping check out this great course Pumping 101.
4. your doctor or pediatrician is knowledgeable about breastfeeding
In some cases this may be true. Some doctors are educated about the benefits and how-tos of breastfeeding, they may have even breastfed themselves! Unfortunately, many doctors are not breastfeeding experts. They may even give you improper advice. The best person to consult is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or IBCLC.
These women are highly trained in helping women successfully breastfeed! Your hospital may offer you a consult with a lactation consultant, know that these are not as educated and may still not be able to help you as much as an IBCLC. Check out La Leche League to find one near you or talk to your local moms who may have a recommendation. If I had gone on the recommendation of my doctor I would have had to supplement indefinitely and likely would have given up on breastfeeding. With the help of an IBCLC and a breastfeeding support group, we are still going strong at 16 months.
5. You need to stop breastfeeding at 6 months, 12 months, etc, etc, etc.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on how long someone breastfeeds their child! There seems to be this misinformation out there that breastmilk is good for a child when they are 364 days old, but not when they are 365 days old. This would mean that a child magically, overnight, no longer needs or can benefit from breastmilk. When you think of it in those terms it becomes obvious that this is not the case.
Breastmilk is still good for your child for years to come. Extended breastfeeding is becoming more common in the United States and is commonplace in much of the word. Many places don’t see it as odd for a child to nurse until age 2, 3, or even older. The right time to stop is when the mother or child need to stop nursing. This will be different for each and every breastfeeding relationship.
6. if i drink I need to pump and dump
There is never a reason to dump your milk!!! Even if you can’t give milk to your baby you can still use it for a milk bath or on rashes, acne, eczema, etc. You would have to be partying like it’s 1999 to need to pump and dump your milk. Such a small amount transfers into your breastmilk that there is no risk to your child unless you get wasted. The real danger in drinking while caring for your child is that if you get tipsy you could possibly fall while holding them.
The best time to drink if you want to minimize and possible transfer is to drink while you’re nursing or right after baby nurses to give your body the most time to process the alcohol before it’s time for baby to eat again. Please do not dump your liquid gold down the drain just because you wanted to unwind a little bit. Go ahead and enjoy your glass of wine or beer…hoppy beer may even help to increase your milk supply!
7. you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding
I studied a lot of biology in high school and college and even I thought this one was true for the longest time! This goes to show how unfortunately uneducated us women are about our own bodies. “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” is a great book to read if you want to get more educated and in tune with your body. Unfortunately, breastfeeding doesn’t prevent your period from returning. Mine returned when my daughter was exactly 7 months old, but some women get their cycle back much earlier and others much later. Once your period returns you can definitely get pregnant. The problem is, you can also get pregnant before your period returns! The way the female cycle works an egg is released about midway through your cycle, if that egg is not fertilized then your body sheds the egg and all the blood, lining, etc. that it was preparing in case the egg does get fertilized. So, by the time your period arrives an egg has already been released, meaning you could get pregnant before your first post-partum period.
Your doctor will likely offer you many birth control options at your 6 week postpartum checkup. If you are breastfeeding they usually recommend the mini pill. Just know that you have to be very careful with the mini pill to take it on time or it may not be effective. Let me say first that there is no evidence that the mini pill will cause any harm to your child if you take it while breastfeeding. Most women also do not report it causing any supply issues.
I myself did not feel comfortable taking a hormone pill while breastfeeding and have been relying on tracking my cycle to prevent pregnancy. I personally use an app called Flo that you can download to your phone. My husband and I want more children so I feel good using this method as if we got pregnant sooner than planned it would not be unwelcome. I would recommend you use some version of the pill or other contraceptive if you absolutely do not want any more children at this time.