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Top 10 Myths About Breastfeeding

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Updated January 27, 2009

We hear them daily. Breastfeeding myths abound. Unfortunately, many breastfeeding women don't question whether or not there's any truth to these. Here are some mythbusters to settle your mind and to put you on the right track.

1. Moms who receive vaccinations should stop breastfeeding for 24 hours.

This is not true at all. There is no reason that a mom receiving any kind of immunization should cease breastfeeding. There is absolutely zero risk to the baby. The truth is, the baby may actually benefit from the vaccine. There is one "however", though. Although rare, we have to be careful with babies who have immune deficiencies. In those cases, mom should not have vaccinations with a weakened live virus such as oral polio (not injectable), or measles, mumps, or rubella.

2. If you are bleeding from your nipples, you should not breastfeed.

You may see blood appear in your baby's spit up, and blood may even show in his bowel movements, but this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Even if your nipples are terribly painful and bleeding, it is no worse for the baby than nipples that are painful and not bleeding. The fact that you have pain is the major concern; this can be remedied by seeing a lactation consultant. Sometimes mothers have Rusty Pipe Syndrome where they may observe blood in their milk, but may not necessarily have any pain. This is okay and there's no harm to the baby from ingesting it. Continue to breastfeed! In this case, the bleeding should stop after the first week postpartum. If it doesn't, see your doctor, but you should still keep breastfeeding.

3. You have to wash your nipples before feeding the baby.

Not at all! Breastfeeding is different than bottle feeding for many reasons, so this myth stems from the fact that bottle nipples can harbor bacteria and the milk can become contaminated. Putting the baby to the breast actually protects her from infection. Aside from the fact that washing your nipples before every feeding adds about 12 extra steps into your day, it will take away important oils from the nipple, which lubricate and protect the area.

4. You won't produce enough milk if your breasts didn't get big during pregnancy.

No, no, no! It is very rare for a mom to not be able to produce enough milk. A smattering of women who have milk supply problems say that their breasts did not change in size during pregnancy. At the same time, most women whose breasts do not seem to enlarge during pregnancy produce plenty of breast milk. If you are in the minority who are not producing enough, there are many ways to boost your supply, so don't give up!

5. Doctors know everything about breastfeeding.

Here's what Dr. Jack Newman, the guru of all-things-breastfeeding, has to say..."This is not true! Obviously, there are exceptions. However, very few physicians trained in North America or Western Europe learned anything at all about breastfeeding in medical school. Even fewer learned about the practical aspects of helping mothers start breastfeeding and helping them maintain breastfeeding. After medical school, most of the information physicians get regarding infant feeding comes from formula company representatives or advertisements." So err on the side of caution and see a lactation consultant with any questions or concerns about breastfeeding.

6. Moms who smoke should not breastfeed.

It may sound like it's going against the grain, but this is not true. Is it recommended that you smoke when you're breastfeeding? Of course not, but a mom who simply cannot stop smoking actually should breastfeed as it will decrease the negative effects of cigarette smoke on the baby's lungs. The truth is that both mom and baby will still obtain excellent health benefits from breastfeeding. Again, it's best not to smoke, but if it's a near impossibility to stop or reduce the amount of cigarettes smoked, then it is better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and formula feed.

7. There's not enough iron for the baby in breast milk.

Breastmilk contains the perfect amount of iron for the baby. Full-term babies receive ample amounts of iron from breast milk to last the first 6 months of age. It is not necessary to give other iron-rich foods to the baby before they turn 6 months, but after this time their iron stores begin to drop and it is time to start offering solids.

8. Moms should not breastfeed after exercising.

While the opposite may be a great excuse not to work out ("I shouldn't exercise if I'm breastfeeding..."), there's no validity to this at all. There is no reason that you can't breastfeed after exercising. The belief that babies reject the breast after mom has worked out is probably due to the fact that there is a lot of salty sweat on the areola and nipple, which doesn't taste as nice as the sweet breast milk, so all you have to do is take a shower or wipe yourself down if you see that your baby is responding in such a way. If your baby doesn't care, continue with your great workouts and nursing plans!

9. Stop breastfeeding if your baby has diarrhea.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The ideal "medicine" for a baby's stomach bug is breastfeeding as there are factors within the breast milk that protect his gastrointestinal system. He does not require any fluids other than breast milk as long as he breastfeeds frequently to avoid dehydration.

10. You can wake up one day and your breast milk is completely gone.

This is extremely rare. Your supply fluctuates throughout the day and some days you may feel fuller than others, but it doesn't just drop off the face of the earth overnight. Actually, it takes a while for your milk supply to wane--some women completely wean their babies and still see milk for a year! If you find that your supply seems low, see a lactation consultant. She will assess your situation and help you to build your milk supply back where it should be. Source: Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
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