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More Breastfeeding Myths1. A breastfeeding mother has to be obsessive about what she eats. Not true!
A breastfeeding mother should try to eat a balanced diet, but neither
needs to eat any special foods nor avoid certain foods. A breastfeeding
mother does not need to drink milk in order to make milk. A
breastfeeding mother does not need to avoid spicy foods, garlic, cabbage
or alcohol. A breastfeeding mother should eat a normal healthful diet.
Although there are situations when something the mother eats may
affect the baby, this is unusual. Most commonly, "colic", "gassiness"
and crying can be improved by changing breastfeeding techniques, rather
than changing the mother's diet. (Information Sheet Colic in the Breastfed Baby).
2. A breastfeeding mother has to eat more in order to make enough milk. Not true! Women on even very low calorie diets usually make enough milk, at least until the mother's calorie intake becomes critically
low for a prolonged period of time. Generally, the baby will get what
he needs. Some women worry that if they eat poorly for a few days this
also will affect their milk. There is no need for concern. Such
variations will not affect milk supply or quality. It is commonly said
that women need to eat 500 extra calories a day in order to breastfeed.
This is not true. Some women do eat more when they breastfeed, but
others do not, and some even eat less, without any harm done to the
mother or baby or the milk supply. The mother should eat a balanced
diet dictated by her appetite. Rules about eating just make
breastfeeding unnecessarily complicated.
3. A breastfeeding mother has to drink lots of fluids. Not true!
The mother should drink according to her thirst. Some mothers feel
they are thirsty all the time, but many others do not drink more than
usual. The mother's body knows if she needs more fluids, and tells her
by making her feel thirsty. Do not believe that you have to drink at
least a certain number of glasses a day. Rules about drinking just make
breastfeeding unnecessarily complicated.
4. A mother who smokes is better not to breastfeed. Not true!
A mother who cannot stop smoking should breastfeed. Breastfeeding has
been shown to decrease the negative effects of cigarette smoke on the
baby's lungs, for example. Breastfeeding confers great health benefits
on both mother and baby. It would be better if the mother not smoke,
but if she cannot stop or cut down, then it is better she smoke and
breastfeed than smoke and formula feed.
5. A mother should not drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Not true!
Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the
case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The
mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally
does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily
restrictive for breastfeeding mothers.
6. A mother who bleeds from her nipples should not breastfeed. Not true!
Though blood makes the baby spit up more, and the blood may even show
up in his bowel movements, this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding
the baby. Nipples that are painful and bleeding are not worse than
nipples that are painful and not bleeding. It is the pain the mother is
having that is the problem. This nipple pain can often be helped
considerably. Get help. (Information Sheet Sore Nipples and Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon).
Sometimes mothers have bleeding from the nipples that is obviously
coming from inside the breast and is not usually associated with pain.
This often occurs in the first few days after birth and settles within a
few days. The mother should not stop breastfeeding for this. If
bleeding does not stop soon, the source of the problem needs to be
investigated, but the mother should keep breastfeeding.
7. A woman who has had breast augmentation surgery cannot breastfeed. Not true!
Most do very well. There is no evidence that breastfeeding with
silicone implants is harmful to the baby. Occasionally this operation
is done through the areola. These women do have often have problems
with milk supply, as does any woman who has an incision around the
8. A woman who has had breast reduction surgery cannot breastfeed. Not true!
Breast reduction surgery does often decrease the mother's capacity to
produce milk, but since many mothers produce more than enough milk, some
mothers who have had breast reduction surgery sometimes can breastfeed
exclusively. In such a situation, the establishment of breastfeeding
should be done with special care to the principles mentioned in the
Information Sheet Breastfeeding—Starting Out Right. However, if
the mother seems not to produce enough, she can still breastfeed,
supplementing with a lactation aid (so that artificial nipples do not
interfere with breastfeeding). See Information Sheet Lactation Aid.
9. Premature babies need to learn to take bottles before they can start breastfeeding. Not true!
Premature babies are less stressed by breastfeeding than by bottle
feeding. A baby as small as 1200 grams and even smaller can start at
the breast as soon as he is stable, though he may not latch on for
several weeks. Still, he is learning and he is being held which is
important for his wellbeing and his mother's. Actually, weight or
gestational age do not matter as much as the baby's readiness to suck,
as determined by his making sucking movements. There is no more reason
to give bottles to premature babies than to full term babies. When
supplementation is truly required there are ways to supplement without
using artificial nipples.
10. Babies with cleft lip and/or palate cannot breastfeed. Not true!
Some do very well. Babies with a cleft lip only usually manage fine.
But many babies with cleft palate do indeed find it very difficult to
latch on. There is no doubt, however, that if breastfeeding is not even
tried, for sure the baby won’t breastfeed. The baby's ability to
breastfeed does not always seem to depend on the severity of the cleft.
Breastfeeding should be started, as much as possible, using the
principles of proper establishment of breastfeeding. (Information Sheet
Breastfeeding—Starting Out Right). If bottles are given, they
will undermine the baby's ability to breastfeed. If the baby needs to
be fed, but is not latching on, a cup can and should be used in
preference to a bottle. Finger feeding occasionally is successful in
babies with cleft lip/palate, but not usually (See Information Sheet Finger and Cup Feeding).
11. Women with small breasts produce less milk than those with large breasts. Nonsense!
12. Breastfeeding does not provide any protection against becoming pregnant. Not true!
It is not a foolproof method, but no method is. In fact,
breastfeeding is not a bad method of child spacing, and gives reliable
protection especially during the first six months after birth. It is
almost as good as the Pill if the baby is under six months of age, if
breastfeeding is exclusive, and if the mother has not yet had a normal
menstrual period after giving birth. After the first six months, the
protection is less, but still present, and on average, women
breastfeeding into the second year of life will have a baby every two to
three years even without any artificial method of contraception.
13. Breastfeeding women cannot take the birth control pill. Not true!
The question is not about exposure to female hormones, to which the
baby is exposed anyway through breastfeeding. The baby gets only a tiny
bit more from the pill. However, some women who take the pill, even
the progestin only pill, find that their milk supply decreases.
Estrogen-containing pills are more likely to decrease the milk supply.
Because so many women produce more than enough, this sometimes does not
matter, but sometimes it does even in the presence of an abundant
supply, and the baby becomes fussy and is not satisfied by
breastfeeding. Babies respond to the rate of flow of milk, not what's
"in the breast", so that even a very good milk supply may seem to cause
the baby who is used to faster flow to be fussy. Stopping the pill
often brings things back to normal. If possible, women who are
breastfeeding should avoid the pill, or at least wait until the baby is
taking other foods (usually around 6 months of age). Even if the baby
is older, the milk supply may decrease significantly. If the pill must
be used, it is preferable to use the progestin only pill (without
14. Breastfeeding babies need other types of milk after six months. Not true! Breastmilk gives the baby everything there is in other milks and more.
Babies older than six months should be started on solids mainly so
that they learn how to eat and so that they begin to get another source
of iron, which by 7-9 months, is not supplied in sufficient quantities
from breastmilk alone. Thus cow's milk or formula will not be necessary
as long as the baby is breastfeeding. However, if the mother wishes to
give milk after 6 months, there is no reason that the baby cannot get
cow's or goat’s milk, as long as the baby is still breastfeeding a few
times a day, and is also getting a wide variety of solid foods in more
than minimal amounts. Most babies older than six months who have never
had formula will not accept it because of the taste.
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