1. 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
2. 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. (See handout #3 Sore Nipples).
3. 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.
4. 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 (Handout #15, Breast Compression). 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.
5. A breastfeeding baby needs extra water in hot weather.
Not true! Breastmilk contains all the water a baby needs.
6. Breastfeeding babies need extra vitamin D. Not true!
Except in extraordinary circumstances (for example, if the mother
herself was vitamin D deficient during the pregnancy). The baby
stores vitamin D during the pregnancy, and a little outside exposure,
on a regular basis, gives the baby all the vitamin D he needs.
7. A mother should wash her nipples each time before feeding
the baby. Not true! Formula feeding requires careful attention
to cleanliness because formula not only does not protect the baby
against infection, but also is actually a good breeding ground for
bacteria and can also be easily contaminated. On the other hand,
breastmilk protects the baby against infection. Washing nipples
before each feeding makes breastfeeding unnecessarily complicated
and washes away protective oils from the nipple.
8. Pumping is a good way of knowing how much milk the mother
has. Not true! How much milk can be pumped depends on many factors,
including the mother's stress level. The baby who nurses well can
get much more milk than his mother can pump. Pumping only tells
you have much you can pump.
9. Breastmilk does not contain enough iron for the baby's needs.
Not true! Breastmilk contains just enough iron for the baby's needs.
If the baby is full term he will get enough iron from breastmilk
to last him at least the first 6 months. Formulas contain too much
iron, but this quantity may be necessary to ensure the baby absorbs
enough to prevent iron deficiency. The iron in formula is poorly
absorbed, and most of it, the baby poops out. Generally, there is
no need to add other foods to breastmilk before about 6 months of
10. 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.
11. Breastfeeding ties the mother down. Not true! But it
depends how you look at it. A baby can be nursed anywhere, anytime,
and thus breastfeeding is liberating for the mother. No need to
drag around bottles or formula. No need to worry about where to
warm up the milk. No need to worry about sterility. No need to worry
about how your baby is, because he is with you.
12. There is no way to know how much breastmilk the baby is
getting. Not true! There is no easy way to measure how much
the baby is getting, but this does not mean that you cannot know
if the baby is getting enough. The best way to know is that the
baby actually drinks at the breast for several minutes at each feeding
(open—pause—close type of suck). Other ways also help show that
the baby is getting plenty (Handout #4, Is my Baby getting enough
13. 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
they 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.
14. If the mother has an infection she should stop breastfeeding.
Not true! With very, very few exceptions, the baby will be protected
by the mother's continuing to breastfeed. 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. (Handout
#9, You can still breastfeed).
15. If the baby has diarrhea or vomiting, the mother should
stop breastfeeding. Not true! The best medicine for a baby's
gut infection is breastfeeding. Stop other foods for a short time,
but continue breastfeeding. Breastmilk is the only fluid your baby
requires when he has diarrhea and/or vomiting, except under exceptional
circumstances. The push to use "oral rehydrating solutions" is mainly
a push by the formula (and oral rehydrating solutions)manufacturers
to make even more money. The baby is comforted by the breastfeeding,
and the mother is comforted by the baby's breastfeeding. (Handout
#9, You can still breastfeed).
16. 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 which 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
(Handout #9, You can still breastfeed).
Handout #11. Some Breastfeeding Myths. Revised
Some Breastfeeding Myths
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
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