Breastfeeding Myths
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by Dr. Jack Newman

Many women do not produce enough milk.
Not true! The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. Indeed, an overabundance of milk is common. Most babies that gain too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The usual reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. This is why it is so important that the mother be shown, on the first day, how to latch a baby on properly, by someone who knows what they are doing.

It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt?
Not true
! Though some tenderness during the first few days is relatively common, this should be a temporary situation which lasts only a few days and should never be so bad that the mother dreads nursing. Any pain that is more than mild is abnormal and is almost always due to the baby latching on poorly. Any nipple pain that is not getting better by day 3 or 4 or lasts beyond 5 or 6 days should not be ignored. A new onset of pain when things have been going well for a while may be due to a yeast infection of the nipples. Limiting feeding time does not prevent soreness.

There is no (not enough) milk during the first 3 or 4 days after birth.
Not true! It often seems like that because the baby is not latched on properly and therefore is unable to get the milk. Once the mother's milk is abundant, a baby can latch on poorly and still may get plenty of milk. However, during the first few days, the baby who is latched on poorly cannot get milk. This accounts for "but he's been on the breast for 2 hours and is still hungry when I take him off". By not latching on well, the baby is unable to get the mother's first milk, called colostrum. Anyone who suggests you pump your milk to know how much colostrum there is, does not understand breastfeeding, and should be politely ignored.
A baby should be on the breast 20 (10, 15, 7.6) minutes on each side.
Not true!
However, a distinction needs to be made between "being on the breast" and "breastfeeding". If a baby is actually drinking for most of 15-20 minutes on the first side, he may not want to take the second side at all. If he drinks only a minute on the first side, and then nibbles or sleeps, and does the same on the other, no amount of time will be enough. The baby will breastfeed better and longer if he is latched on properly. He can also be helped to breastfeed longer if the mother compresses the breast to keep the flow of milk going, once he no longer swallows on his own. Thus it is obvious that the rule of thumb that "the baby gets 90% of the milk in the breast in the first 10 minutes" is equally hopelessly wrong.
A breastfeeding baby needs extra water in hot weather.
Not true! Breastmilk contains all the water a baby needs.
It is easier to bottle feed than to breastfeed.
Not true!
Or, this should not be true. However, breastfeeding is made difficult because women often do not receive the help they should to get started properly. A poor start can indeed make breastfeeding difficult. But a poor start can also be overcome. Breastfeeding is often more difficult at first, due to a poor start, but usually becomes easier later.
Modern formulas are almost the same as breastmilk.
Not true!
The same claim was made in 1900 and before. Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breastmilk. Every correction of a deficiency in formulas is advertised as an advance. Fundamentally formulas are inexact copies based on outdated and incomplete knowledge of what breastmilk is. Formulas contain no antibodies, no living cells, no enzymes, no hormones. They contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium and iron than breastmilk. They contain significantly more protein than breastmilk. The proteins and fats are fundamentally different from those in breastmilk. Formulas do not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30, or from woman to woman, or from baby to baby. Your breastmilk is made as required to suit your baby. Formulas are made to suit every baby, and thus no baby. Formulas succeed only at making babies grow well, usually, but there is more to breastfeeding than getting the baby to grow quickly.

If the mother has an infection she should stop breastfeeding.
Not true! With very, very few exceptions, the mother's continuing to breastfeed  will protect the baby. By the time the mother has fever (or cough, vomiting,diarrhea, rash, etc) she has already given the baby the infection, since she has been infectious for several days before she even knew she was sick. The baby's best protection against getting the infection is for the mother to continue breastfeeding. If the baby does get sick, he will be less sick if the mother continues breastfeeding. Besides, maybe it was the baby who gave the infection to the mother, but the baby did not show signs of illness because he was breastfeeding. Also, breast infections, including breast abscess, though painful, are not reasons to stop breastfeeding. Indeed, the infection is likely to settle more quickly if the mother continues breastfeeding on the affected side

If the mother is taking medicine she should not breastfeed.
Not true!
There are very very few medicines that a mother cannot take safely while breastfeeding. A very small amount of most medicines appears in the milk,but usually in such small quantities that there is no concern. If a medicine is truly of concern, there are usually equally effective, alternative medicines that are safe. The loss of benefit of breastfeeding for both the mother and the baby must be taken into account when weighing if breastfeeding should be continued.
Breastfeeding mothers' milk can "dry up" just like that.
Not true! Or if this can occur, it must be a rare occurrence. Aside from day to day and morning to evening variations, milk production does not change suddenly.

There are changes which occur which may make it seem as if milk production is suddenly much less:

       An increase in the needs of the baby, the so called growth spurt.
If this is the reason for the seemingly insufficient milk, a few days of more
       frequent nursing will bring things back to normal. Try compressing the breast with
       your hand to help the baby get milk.

       A change in the baby's behavior.
At about 5-6 weeks of age, more or less, babies who would fall asleep at the
       breast when the flow of milk slowed down, tend to start pulling at the breast or
       crying when the milk flow slows. The milk has not dried up, but the baby has
       changed. Try compressing the breast with your hand to help the baby get more

       The mother's breasts do not seem full or are soft.
It is normal after a few weeks for the mother no longer to have engorgement, or
       even fullness of the breasts. As long as the baby is drinking at the breast, do not
       be concerned.

The baby breastfeeds less well.
This is often due to the baby being given bottles or pacifiers and thus learning an
inappropriate way of breastfeeding.

       The birth control pill may decrease your milk supply.
Think about stopping the pill or changing to a progesterone only pill. Or use other
If the baby truly seems not to be getting enough, get help, but do not
       introduce a bottle that may only make things worse. If absolutely necessary, the
       baby can be supplemented, using a lactation aid that will not interfere with
However, lots can be done before giving supplements. Get help.
       Try compressing the breast with your hand to help the baby get milk.
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