Breastfeeding Myths and Truths

March 23, 2022 Women

I’ve been helping women with breastfeeding questions and problems for over 20 years now and I have noticed that things have changed. Changed for the better! More moms want to try out breastfeeding and are looking for information and more moms are trying it and succeeding. Moms like you. There aren’t so many “wives tales” as there used to be, but now we have “medical tales”—myths that are sometimes spread by health professionals. So, let’s look at six of the most common myths and the truths behind them:

1

You can’t breastfeed while you are taking antibiotics (or other medicines).

TRUTH

Most medications do not pass into the milk and those that do are in such small amounts, they won’t affect your baby. For the few medications that aren’t safe while breastfeeding, there are almost always safe alternatives. ASK YOUR LACTATION PROFESSIONAL or WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor!

2

If your newborn loses weight in the hospital, you will need to give formula.

TRUTH

Most all newborns lose a small amount of weight—whether they are breastfed or not. It can take up to two weeks for babies to regain the weight. Giving formula might make things worse by decreasing your milk supply. Be sure to ask for the Lactation Consultant at the hospital or WIC office to get the best advice.

3

If women in your family had trouble breastfeeding, you will too.

TRUTH

Women in your family who had problems breastfeeding probably needed help! This wive’s tale may be used to help you feel better, but don’t let it be an excuse not to get help! Breastfeeding help was not as available decades ago as it is now. Get your questions answered while you are still pregnant.

3

If women in your family had trouble breastfeeding, you will too.

TRUTH

Women in your family who had problems breastfeeding probably needed help! This wive’s tale may be used to help you feel better, but don’t let it be an excuse not to get help! Breastfeeding help was not as available decades ago as it is now. Get your questions answered while you are still pregnant.

4

You should not breastfeed if you have a cold or a fever.

TRUTH

You may think that breastfeeding will pass on your illness to your baby—actually your baby was exposed to your germs long before you felt sick. The wise thing to do is to keep breastfeeding because your breastmilk contains the antibodies that help protect your baby from what you have. You can’t buy such perfect medicine—with antibodies to fight all the germs you and your baby are exposed to. And it’s made with love!

4

You should not breastfeed if you have a cold or a fever.

TRUTH

You may think that breastfeeding will pass on your illness to your baby—actually your baby was exposed to your germs long before you felt sick. The wise thing to do is to keep breastfeeding because your breastmilk contains the antibodies that help protect your baby from what you have. You can’t buy such perfect medicine—with antibodies to fight all the germs you and your baby are exposed to. And it’s made with love!

5

Pain during breastfeeding is normal: part of the deal.

TRUTH

Most women find their nipples are tender the first few weeks of breastfeeding as they get used to their baby’s latch. Some women also experience discomfort the first 30 seconds when baby is latching on. However, continuous pain while breastfeeding is not normal and is usually caused by poor positioning, bottle-feeding or bad advice. Go directly to your nearest Lactation Consultant or WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. Ask for her number even before you leave the hospital or WIC clinic. Put her number in your phone as well as on the fridge!

6

Giving a bottle does not harm breastfeeding.

TRUTH

It depends. If you give a bottle too early, it might lower your milk supply. Also giving a bottle the first few weeks is a missed opportunity for teaching your baby to suckle correctly at the breast. Of course, most women return to work so you may need to give a bottle eventually. So, start with the breast only and add the bottle after the baby has really learned how to do it. See if you can wait at least a month or six weeks.

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: