15 Common Breastfeeding Myths & Other Things you Might Not Know
So you’ve made the decision to breastfeed your new baby. Congratulations! Breastfeeding is a wonderful and very personal journey for new moms, with many great rewards for you and your baby. But it’s not always easy, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
While your friends and family have good intentions, they might be creating more confusion than providing clarity. Not to worry! To clear things up, we answer some of your most common breastfeeding questions and a few things you might not know.
You might also want to check out our A-Z Guide on Breastfeeding Your Newborn. It covers latching techniques, how to relieve engorged breasts, top tips and much more.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What is the difference between co-nursing, induced lactation, and relaxation?
- Debunking 14 common breastfeeding myths
- How to stimulate breast milk production after a period of not breastfeeding
- Donating your breast milk – what you need to know
- Got any more questions?
What is the difference between co-nursing, induced lactation, and relaxation?
Co-nursing, also known as wet nursing, is the act of breastfeeding a child that isn’t your biological child.
Induced lactation is the process of stimulating milk production despite not having been pregnant. It’s often used in the case of adoptive mothers, new mothers via surrogate, or same-sex female couples (where the non-gestational parent feeds the baby).
Relactation differs from induced lactation in that you previously were breastfeeding your baby, but for whatever reason, you stopped and would now like to resume the process. It may be that you became ill and were hospitalised, or you were unable to produce sufficient breastmilk.
Debunking 14 common breastfeeding myths
Don’t knock it before you try it. When waiting for your bundle of joy to arrive, you’ll no doubt be inundated with all sorts of weird and wonderful breastfeeding stories. Try not to let them influence your decision to breastfeed your baby.
If you give birth at Welwitschia Hospital, you will have a qualified midwife ready to assist you with the correct technique when latching your baby. But for the moment, let’s debunk a few common breastfeeding myths.
1. Breastfeeding comes naturally to every woman
Before your baby arrives, it seems like all you need to do is put your baby to the breast, let him latch on, and away you go. Sometimes it’s not so easy – some babies do go straight to the breast and their mothers never experience any problems. But many new mothers need some help.
So no, breastfeeding does not always come naturally and easy. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re failing because it doesn’t come easy to you. Each baby is unique. There have been moms whose first babies latched like a dream, yet breastfeeding baby number two posed numerous challenges.
Practice, patience and support makes perfect. Be kind to yourself and don’t give up on too soon.
2. Breastfeeding is painful
This is not entirely true. Nothing about breastfeeding should hurt. Pain is a sign to all mammals that something’s not right. Some fullness and a little nipple discomfort for a few days is normal. But bruising, broken skin, or outright pain? It’s not good for you, and it probably means your baby is having some trouble taking milk out easily.
If after the first three to five days after birth, you experience nipple soreness beyond a slight tenderness when your baby latches on, it may be a sign that something isn’t right with the baby’s latch, position, or suck. An adjustment to the latch or positioning can help you and your baby to be more comfortable. If nipple pain worsens after the early days of breastfeeding your nipple pain may be due to other causes like thrush, bacterial infection, or tongue-tie.
A painful let-down reflex can occasionally happen while your body adjusts to feeding your baby. Some deep breast twinges during let-down can also occur as the milk ducts constrict to force the milk toward the nipple. As your body becomes more used to breastfeeding, these disappear.
Also, when your breast is swollen, hard, and warm to the touch, you may have engorged breasts, blocked milk ducts or an infection (also known as mastitis). Take a hot shower and carefully massage your breasts, nurse or express every two hours, and put cabbage leaves on your breasts. If your fever does not break within 24 hours, contact your doctor.
Breastfeeding without pain is important not only for the comfort of the nursing parent, but also for your baby. Resolving your pain goes a long way toward your baby getting sufficient milk and your milk production remaining strong so you can meet your breastfeeding goals.
3. You can’t breastfeed in public
Breastfeeding is a natural way of feeding and nurturing your baby, and is highly valued in many cultures. Still, many mothers find that although they feel proud of nursing their baby, they feel concerned about how to do this in a public place without drawing unwanted attention to their breasts.
Breastfeeding should not keep you and your baby at home (or hidden in the restrooms). It’s possible to breastfeed discreetly in public if you wear the right clothes. A loose-fitting shirt or top that lifts or can be unbuttoned from the waist will let you feed your baby without exposing your breast, because the baby will cover the nipple and lower breast. You can also buy special nursing blouses, dresses, or shirts, with hidden slits and panels, or modify your existing clothes. If you wear a nursing bra, it’s easiest to breastfeed discreetly if the bra can be pulled up or unfastened and re-fastened with one hand. Layering of clothes can often be helpful so that you can use the “one up, one down” method and lift your outer layer up and pull down a vest underneath. This is good for warmth too.
4. You can’t do breastfeeding and bottle-feeding
This simply isn’t true. Many working moms express milk for their babies to cover a day’s feeds.
This also doesn’t mean that your baby will stop feeding from your breast. Some babies are happy to feed take a bottle from their caretaker during the day and feed from mom’s breast when she returns home.
5. You must dump your milk if you’ve been drinking alcohol
Again, this is another myth. As alcohol leaves your bloodstream, it leaves your breastmilk. Since alcohol is not “trapped” in breastmilk (it returns to the bloodstream as your blood alcohol level declines), pumping and dumping, drinking a lot of water, resting, or drinking coffee will not speed up the rate of the elimination of alcohol from your body.
If you choose to drink alcohol, limit it to one drink per occasion and plan as well as you can to reduce your baby’s exposure to alcohol. If possible, store some expressed breastmilk in advance. Breastfeeding immediately before consuming any alcoholic beverage, then waiting to nurse again for about three hours, will also help ensure that your baby gets very little alcohol from you.
Please note: You should not sleep with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, as your natural reflexes have been impaired.
6. You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding
There are plenty of new moms who’d beg to differ. You absolutely can get pregnant while breastfeeding.
Some moms will find it takes more than six months for their cycles and fertility to return, while other mothers find that their cycles and fertility return earlier than six months. It is also important to mention that after six months, there is a higher chance that you might ovulate and possibly become pregnant before your first postpartum period.
7. Breastmilk provides no goodness once your baby is a year old
Can you still breastfeed your toddler? A lot of people think that once a baby reaches a year old, breastfeeding is more about the mother not wanting to let go than nourishing the child.
The reality is that your milk still provides antibodies that help to keep your toddler healthy. So if they still ask for the breast, and you’re happy to keep feeding them, don’t let anyone stop you. There certainly is a lot of goodness that your toddler can still get from your breastmilk.
8. Don’t feed your baby once they have teeth
Just because your baby has teeth doesn’t mean they’ll use them on you. And if they do, it is something you can correct easily and gently. So don’t be put off by those purely white razors. You can still safely feed your baby without fearing you’ll lose a nipple.
9. You can stop breastfeeding your baby once they start solids
Most babies begin eating solids at six months of age, but your breastmilk will still provide most of their nourishment up until one year old. It also helps to boost their immune system and helps prevent your baby from getting sick.
So just because you’re starting your little one on solids doesn’t mean you should stop breastfeeding them. If you’re unsure, speak to your local paediatrician. They’ll advise you on the best way forward.
10. You can’t feed if you have breast implants
Again, there are many women who can easily disprove this theory. You may need to consult your doctor about breastfeeding your baby, but there’s no reason why you can’t effectively feed your little one.
11. Breastfeeding leads to saggy breasts
Don’t let the prospect of saggy breasts put you off breastfeeding. Scientists have proved that pregnancy weight gain and hormonal fluctuations are a greater cause of droopy boobs than breastfeeding.
12. You can’t take medicine while breastfeeding
If you’ve had a c-section, chances are you’ll be given pain medication in the first few days after giving birth. The same applies to women who’ve had episiotomies. And during the coronavirus pandemic, nursing moms were still encouraged to feed their little ones despite a positive COVID test. If you’re unsure, speak to your local GP. But most medication is safe to take while breastfeeding your baby.
13. Exercise will affect milk supply while nursing
There’s a myth that too much exercise will affect the amount of milk you produce. It’s just not true. If you feel the need to go for a run or hit the gym, do it. Exercise plays an important part in your overall health, so make sure you walk daily
14. You can’t drink coffee while breastfeeding
If you thrive on your morning cup of coffee, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not off-limits while you’re nursing. Only about 1% of caffeine ends up in your milk, so you can still have your coffee or eat chocolate and nurse your baby.
Try not to have more than two cups a day, as newborns are quite sensitive to caffeine. If you find your little one is more restless than usual and doesn’t want to sleep, shift to decaffeinated coffee.
How to stimulate breast milk production after a period of not breastfeeding
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and it’s up to you to adapt. Perhaps your baby was born prematurely, and weeks or months pass before you can officially breastfeed your baby. Or, like in many parts of America, there’s an unexpected shortage of infant formula, and suddenly you can’t get your baby’s formula. What do you do?
Getting your milk to flow again (relactacting) isn’t an easy journey, but it is possible. We’ve shared our top tips to stimulate milk production. But do speak to your doctor or midwife before embarking on this path.
1. Get rid of your baby’s dummy
A great way to encourage your baby to take your breast is to misplace their favourite pacifier. Suckling your breast will provide the comfort they need and stimulate your milk production. So don’t be afraid to kick your baby’s dummy habit. Just be sure to avoid the dummy aisle in stores.
2. Pump more often
Another way to increase your dwindling milk supply is to pump up to eight times a day. You can hand express by cupping your breast in a c-shape and squeezing down to the nipple or use a breast pump. It’s vital that you empty the breast, so make sure you’re getting as much milk out as you can.
3. Increase skin-to-skin contact
One of the first things you’re told to do as a new mother is to place baby on your bare chest. Not only does this help to regulate your baby’s heart rate, but it also stimulates digestion, and it encourages your little one to latch. The same applies when attempting to reintroduce breastfeeding. Spend as much time as you can with your baby close to you.
Take a bath with your baby, and cuddle them when they sleep. Strap them to your back or place them in a baby carrier when out walking or making dinner. Gently offer your breast when you can, such as in the bath. This subtle encouragement can help your baby shift back to your breast instead of a bottle.
4. Rest, drink lots of water and eat a healthy balanced diet
A key element of relactation is rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and a good diet. If you can, rest when your baby sleeps.
Drink as much water as possible, particularly in the hot Namibian summer. Whether your baby is hungry or tired, offering your breast as a source of comfort is an excellent way to stimulate milk production.
And watch what you eat. Aim to eat protein three times a day. It could be chicken, fish, nuts, dairy, or eggs. Have at least two fruits and three servings of vegetables (choose a mix of green and yellow veg) a day. And don’t be shy to eat whole grains like oats, bread, or pasta. You need your energy, and these are great for refuelling.
5. Talk to your doctor about using medicine to increase breast milk supply
As a last resort, you can also take a medicine called domperidone to increase prolactin, a hormone that helps stimulate milk production. It’s only available as a prescription, so you’ll need to speak to your doctor before trying it.
Donating your breast milk in Namibia – what you need to know
Do you produce too much milk? Despite pumping regularly, you might as well be in a wet t-shirt competition.
Consider donating your breast milk. Many new moms struggle to produce enough milk to feed their nursing babies. But they don’t want to supplement with infant formula.
Your breastmilk can help them to continue with their nursing journey.
There are also thousands of babies born prematurely each year in Namibia to HIV-positive mothers. Unfortunately, the nature of their illness prevents them from feeding their babies.
Give your excess milk to the Namibian Breast Milk Bank. The bank works similarly to a blood bank. You’ll deposit your breast milk at the premises, and it will be pasteurised and stored before being distributed to children in need.
If you’d like to know more about donating your milk, click here.
Got any more questions?
We’ve covered some of your most common breastfeeding questions, as well as how to donate your excess breastmilk and stimulate your milk supply. If you want to know more, contact one of our paediatricians, and we’ll get back to you.
Remember, every mom’s breastfeeding journey is different. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you take a little longer to get the hang of things. Keep trying, and turn to friends and family for encouragement. Alternatively, contact Welwitschia Hospital by calling +264 64 218 911 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to guide you on your breastfeeding journey.
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