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Busting the Top 10 Myths About Breastfeeding

By Amy Spangler, MN, RN, IBCLC

Busting the Top 10 Myths About Breastfeeding

Know that myths masquerading as facts can undermine the success of even the most ardent mom. Learn to separate fact from fiction and you will gain the knowledge and confidence you need to meet your breastfeeding goals.

1. Engorgement is normal

It’s easy to confuse breast fullness, which is normal, with breast engorgement, which can hint at a problem that will only worsen if ignored. If feedings are infrequent, delayed or missed, your breasts can overfill and engorgement can occur. Classic signs of engorgement include swollen, hot, painful breasts and a low-grade fever. Engorgement is best prevented by breastfeeding early (as soon as possible after birth) and often.

2. Pain is normal

Many new mothers describe breastfeeding as “painful.” Any discomfort that you feel should be at the start of a feeding and last only a few seconds. If the pain persists throughout the feeding, it can signal a poor latch. Remove your baby from the breast and try again. Breastfeeding “through the pain” will only result in a still-hungry baby and a damaged nipple.

3. Babies cry when they need to be fed

Babies cry for many reasons. While it’s true that your baby’s cry can signal hunger, crying is a late sign of hunger. Watch, instead, for early cues such as sucking on fingers or fists, smacking lips, squirming and fussing, and feed your baby before she cries.

4. Latch is more important than position

Position and latch go hand-in-hand. It’s hard to achieve a good latch when your baby is poorly positioned. The best breastfeeding positions are the ones that work for you and your baby. Regardless of which positions you choose, make sure your baby is well supported and facing your breast.

5. Many moms just don’t make enough milk

Not enough milk is every mom’s fear. It’s also a top reason moms say they stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later. While it’s hard to measure what you can’t see, poopy diapers and weight gain will let you know your baby is getting enough to eat.

6. Inadequate weight gain is common

Knowing how much weight babies typically lose and gain during their first weeks of life can help you know if your baby is gaining too little or too much weight:

  • Newborns lose, on average, 5% of their birth weight during the first 5 days after birth.
  • Some babies lose as little as 2% or as much as 7%–10%. Weight loss greater than 10% or continued weight loss after day 5 can be cause for concern.
  • Most babies are back to their birth weight by 10 days of age and gain between 4–8 ounces a week during the remainder of the first 3 months.

7. A lot of breastfed babies will need formula supplements

Despite compelling evidence of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, work, school demands, illness, pain and low milk supply are among the many reasons mothers give for feeding formula. The fact is, most mothers are able to breastfeed their babies exclusively, both by nursing and bottle-feeding breastmilk. Although formula supplements are widely used, they’re seldom medically indicated.

8. How much milk you pump is how much milk you make

How much milk a mother expresses from her breasts is seldom a reflection of how much milk she makes at a feeding. In the beginning, you may only get enough milk to cover the bottom of the collection container. Don’t worry. It can take days or weeks before you see an increase in how much you can pump.

9. You need to wait at least 2 hours after you pump to breastfeed

The same rule that applies to breastfeeding applies to pumping: Watch your baby, not the clock, and feed your baby at the first sign of hunger. There is no need to wait for even one minute after pumping before feeding your child. In fact, the more milk you remove from your breasts by breastfeeding or pumping, the more milk you will make.

10. ‘No leaking’ means ‘no milk’

Milk leaking from your breasts is a sure sign that your body is making milk. Now you just need to get the milk out of your breasts and into your baby. Once your baby acquires a feeding routine (about 6–12 weeks of age), leaking usually stops. Don’t panic! You’re not losing your milk. Your breasts have simply learned how much milk to make and when to make it.

Amy Spangler, MN, RN, IBCLC, is an internationally recognized breastfeeding and child nutrition expert. Find her online at Babygooroo.com.


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