Breastfeeding Myths and Realities


By Leslie Kincaid Burby for ProMoM

This information is furnished to you by ProMoM, Inc. as a public service.
It is in no way intended as medical advice, or meant to replace the services
of a licensed medical professional.

Myth #1: Breastfeeding ruins the shape of your breasts

*Reality:* This is simply not true. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant
permanent changes occur in her breasts. Even if she doesn’t carry to term,
or chooses to abort, her breasts will never be the same as they were before
she became pregnant. Whether or not she then goes on to breastfeed will not
effect her future breast shape one way or another. Heredity plays a large
role in this matter, as does excessive weight gain or loss. It is helpful to
maintain the tone of the muscles that support your breasts, and avoid large
and sudden weight gains or losses, pregnancy-related or otherwise.

Myth #2: Small-breasted women won’t have enough milk

*Reality:* The size of your breasts, either large or small, has nothing
to do with the amount of milk they will produce. Almost all women who are
getting plenty of liquid, adequate rest and relaxation, and lots of physical
contact with their babies will produce enough milk. In fact, many women who
believe they are not producing enough milk are mistaken. It is surprising
how much milk a tiny baby can consume in a short amount of time. The number
of wet and soiled diapers being produced every day is a fairly accurate
indicator of how much milk the baby is getting. 6-8 wet cloth diapers (5-6
soaked disposables), and at least 2-5 bowel movements per day indicate that
your baby is getting plenty of milk. Once the newborn stage is over, the
number of bowel movements may decrease.

If your baby seems lethargic, seems to have poor skin tone or is not
wetting and soiling an adequate number of diapers, this is cause for
concern. If you believe you are having trouble with your milk supply,
contact a lactation consultant, or a supportive physician. It is always
better to be safe than sorry.

Remember, the more the baby nurses, the more milk your breasts will be
stimulated to produce. If you begin “supplementing” your supply with
artificial milk, your breasts will not receive adequate stimulation and your
milk supply will decrease.

Myth #3: Breastfeeding influences a baby’s future sexual orientation.

*Reality:* Not true. The misconception that breastfeeding could in some
way determine whether a child will grow up to be heterosexual or homosexual
is tied to the mistaken idea that breastfeeding is in itself a sort of
sexual activity. It is not. Breastfeeding is a nutritional and nurturing act
that helps children grow up to be healthier and more self-confident,
whatever their sexual preference turns out to be.

Myth #4: Today’s artificial breast milk is just as good as the real thing.

*Reality:* Even though modern formulas are considerably better than some
of the old fashioned ones, they can never replicate mother’s milk. In the
first place, human milk contains live cells and human hormones that are
impossible to obtain from the milk of another species. Furthermore, formula
companies admit that they don’t yet know all of the ingredients in human
breast milk. Every few months these companies come up with something
different to try to add in. If you choose to breastfeed you can be confident
that all the necessary nutrients, immunities, hormones and as yet
undiscovered beneficial elements will be present in the right amounts. On
the other hand, research shows significant risk in the use of artificial

Myth #5: Breastfeeding takes more time than bottle-feeding.

*Reality:* This statement is usually made in reference to nighttime
feedings. If a mother sleeps with or next to her baby, nighttime feedings
are much easier than they are for bottle feeders. All you have to do is open
your nightgown and roll over. Even if the breastfeeding mother does not
sleep with her baby, it is certainly less time-consuming to go pick up the
child and offer the breast, than to get up, go the kitchen, open a can of
formula (or mix up a batch from powder), turn on the stove to boil water to
heat the formula, put the formula into a bottle, warm the bottle in the hot
water, wait several minutes, then finally return to the crying child, pick
up the child and offer the bottle. Of course, at this point it is tempting
for an exhausted mother or father to prop up the bottle and leave the baby
alone to finish it. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do as the baby
can easily choke on the liquid, or spit up and choke on that. Also, it leads
to baby bottle caused tooth decay.

It is true that you may have to feed a bit more frequently if you
breastfeed because breastmilk is more easily digested than formula. Of
course that easy digestibility translates into less time dealing with colic,
diarrhea and other digestive ailments. Also, breastfed babies are far less
likely to contract colds, ear infections, and asthma. Formula feeding
mothers need to factor in extra time for trips to the store to buy supplies,
as well as possible extra trips to the doctor’s office. (See ProMoM’s “101
Reasons To Breastfeed Your

It is also a fact that in the early months, unless you express
breastmilk, you will be the only person able to provide nutrition to your
baby. Formula feeding mothers can have other caregivers give some or most of
the feedings. However, breastfeeding offers a new mother an amazing chance
to bond with her child, as well as all the health benefits that formula and
bottles cannot provide. It may be helpful to remember that your baby will
only be completely dependent on you for a very short amount of time in the
course of your relationship together. Nursing can give you a chance for a
much needed relaxation break, and time to re-connect with your baby. Try to
savor these special moments.

Myth #6: You can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding.

*Reality:* True and false! Breastfeeding is only an effective form of
birth control (98%)
during the first 6 months, and is only effective during this period if the
baby is receiving nothing but breast milk on demand. No supplements, no
solids, no water, and no pacifiers! The chance of pregnancy increases
greatly when the baby begins sleeping through the night, starts eating
solids, and/or when the mother resumes her menstrual cycle. If you truly do
not wish to become pregnant again yet, it is wise to use an additional
method of birth control.

*Myth #7: You must wean if you get pregnant.*

*Reality:* There is no particular reason why a woman who is enjoying
breastfeeding one child should wean that child when she learns that she is
expecting another, unless she has a history of preterm labor. Some women
continue to breastfeed throughout a pregnancy and then go on to
“tandem”feed. This
phrase refers to the practice of breastfeeding more than one
child simultaneously. Some children do wean themselves once their mother
becomes pregnant, possibly because her milk supply drops, or they detect a
change in the taste of the milk which does not please them. Some women
choose to wean because they find breastfeeding during pregnancy too
physically or emotionally fatiguing. Other women describe enjoying the
relaxation breaks that an ongoing breastfeeding process requires of them,
and feel it contributes to the enjoyment of their new pregnancy. See La
Leche League’s information on breastfeeding during

Myth #8: You can’t breastfeed after a caesarian section birth.

*Reality:* It is entirely possible to breastfeed after a c-section. Many
women describe really enjoying being able to perform this natural act after
going through a very medically oriented birth. It is important to nurse in
way that does not put pressure on the incision sight. The “football hold”
position is
particularly helpful, as is a good nursing pillow. Ask the hospital staff
for help, and consider calling a lactation consultant or your local La Leche
League if you’re having difficulty.

Myth #9: Your milk will “come in” immediately after you give birth.

*Reality:* First of all, the substance produced by your breasts
immediately after a birth is called colostrum. It is yellowish and stickier
than mature milk, and full of nutrients and immunities for the newborn baby.
However, amounts of colostrum vary from mother to mother, and you may not
produce very much. This is normal.

After colostrum the breast then begins to produce transitional milk,
which is whitish-yellow, and more abundant. Gradually, over the next week or
two, the transitional milk begins to change to a thin, bluish-white mature
milk. Your milk production is directly linked to how often and how
effectively your baby is suckling. If your transitional milk does not come
in after 30 – 40 hours it is a good idea to contact a lactation consultant
or La Leche League, especially if the hospital staff is advising you to give
formula or water.

Myth #10: Your mate will find you less attractive if you breastfeed.

*Reality:* It is possible that your mate may have some trouble adjusting
to thinking of your breasts as sources of nourishment as well as of sexual
stimulation. On the other hand, many partners find that a woman who is
fulfilling this new part of her womanly potential is particularly exciting.
The idea of the bountiful breast filled with the milk of life can be very
powerful. If your mate does feel uncomfortable with this, however, it may be
helpful to join a support group with other couples so that he/she may become
more familiar with these new images, and begin to understand that they are
normal and healthy.

Myth #11: Breastfeeding is painful

*Reality:* Many women experience no pain or difficulty at all when they
start breastfeeding. For some, the first week or two may include some slight
discomfort and pain. However, excruciating, or ongoing pain is *not*normal.

Usually, it is caused by incorrect positioning or latch-on technique, and
can be cleared up with one or two visits from a lactation consultant. This
pain can often be avoided if the mother does some reading, and/or attends a
class about breastfeeding, and/or attends a class about breastfeeding before
giving birth.

Visiting several La Leche League meetings while you are still pregnant is
also a wonderful way to observe successfully breastfeeding mothers, as well
as to network with other new parents. La Leche
Leaguehas a peer counseling program in
which you can receive help from other
experienced mothers in the early days of your nursing relationship.

Do request any assistance you can from trained hospital staff while you
are still in recovery. Sometimes these services are not volunteered, and you
will not receive them unless you request them. Also, Ask about the
availability of a lactation consultant before you make your choice as to
which hospital or birthing center you are planning to use.

Myth #12: You can be arrested for breastfeeding in public.

*Reality:* In the United States, you *cannot* be arrested for
breastfeeding your child any place a woman would normally be. Such places
include beaches, pools, restaurants (at the table), park benches, and
parking lots, among others. You cannot be forced to remove yourself to a
bathroom, closet, or vehicle. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, you
should feel free to refuse to comply, and inform them of your
Obviously, places like the men’s bathrooms are off limits, since it’s not a
place women are supposed to be. Who would want to breastfeed there anyway?

Myth #13: You can’t breastfeed if your plan to go back to work or school.

*Reality:* If you’re planning to return to work or school, there are
several different ways to approach the situation without weaning your child.
First of all, it may be possible to schedule your work with a lunch break
during which you may return home, or go to your child’s daycare center to
nurse. Alternatively, your caregiver might bring the child to your work

If these situations are not possible to arrange, there are now wonderful
and relatively inexpensive pumps (compare them with the price of buying
formula) available to the public. Or, you may prefer to rent a
In some cases, insurance companies will even cover the cost of a pump rental
or purchase because it will save them money in the long run to have
healthier babies on their plans.

Using a good quality electric pump it is possible to pump 8-10 ounces of
milk in 15 minutes. Battery pumps are also available, and they can be used
in a vehicle or in a restroom. It may take longer for newer mothers, and you
should plan to pump at least every 4 hours. Beware of cheap low-grade
machines, some of which are manufactured by formula companies. They can
cause soreness, and probably will not pump sufficient quantities of milk.
Remember that pumping is a learned art, and may take time to get perfected.
If you do not receive the amount of milk you anticipated, try again, or try
a different pump. (See ProMoM’s “Breastfeeding and Returning to
and La Leche League’s information on working and

If none of these possibilities work for you, you might consider nursing
when you are at home and having a caregiver provide a bottle of artificial
milk when you are at work. This method should be approached very carefully,
however, to avoid depleting the mother’s milk supply and endangering the
health of the infant.

Myth #14: Night nursing causes dental problems.

*Reality:* Generally, the worries about babies getting cavities through
nighttime milk consumption arise from the practice of leaving babies to
sleep with bottles of formula or juice. When this is done harmful bacteria
have unlimited access to these sugary mediums and will thrive in the baby’s
mouth. The acids excreted by the bacteria cause tooth decay. Such decay has
been seen occasionally in breastfed babies if these children happen to fall
into a small category of people with easily decayed teeth. For most children
night nursing will not be a problem.

One advantage that the human nipple provides over an artificial one is
that it delivers the milk further toward the back of the mouth, past the
teeth. Artificial nipples deliver the milk into the front and middle of the
mouth where it can cause decay. Also, the human nipple does not continue to
drip milk when it is not being sucked. In contrast, bottles will drip milk
all night if left in the bed with the baby. Reminder: no baby should ever be
left alone with a propped up bottle!

If you notice anything strange looking happening to your child’s teeth
consult a breastfeeding supportive dentist for help. There are many articles
on this subject available
through La Leche League.

Myth #15: Breastfeeding will ruin your sex-life.

*Reality:* Some people fear that the intimacy that a mother maintains
with her child through breastfeeding will displace her needs for intimacy
with her partner. This is partially due to our society’s viewing of the
female breast as a sex organ, rather than a source of nutrition. There is no
reason that a breast can’t perform both functions. In fact, whether a woman
chooses to breastfeed or not, she may find her libido considerably
diminished for weeks or months following a birth. It is unrealistic and
unfair to expect any new mother, breastfeeding or not, who is recovering
from a birth, who is either nursing or bottle-feeding around the clock,
getting up at night to diaper, rock and sooth the baby, cooking, cleaning,
chauffeuring, etc. to have much interest in sex! If she has an extra half
hour in the evening she will probably choose to use it to sleep! Any tasks
that her mate can assist her with will contribute to the deepening of their
relationship. If a breastfeeding mother’ partner is respectful of the
importance of the breastfeeding relationship, and able to assist with things
such as diaper changes and nighttime parenting duties, the new mother’s
sexuality will gradually resurface.

Myth #16: You have to have a good diet or your milk won’t nourish the baby

*Reality:* Surprisingly, new studies have shown this to be untrue. Even
women who are getting poor nutrition can usually produce adequate quality
milk. However, they may not be able to produce as much of milk as women who
are eating well. Needless to say, it’s best to eat right during pregnancy
and while you’re breastfeeding. Occasional lapses, however, are nothing to
worry about.

Myth #17: Breastfeeding makes you fat.

*Reality:* Breastfeeding will certainly not prevent you from getting back
to your pre-pregnancy weight. In fact, breastfeeding uses an extra 300 to
500 calories every day. It’s up to the mother how many of those calories she
chooses to obtain through eating additional food or through burning off her
available body fat. It is wise to lose weight gained during pregnancy
gradually whether or not you choose to breastfeed. It may take some women
longer than others, and it is important to remember that your body has been
through a lot, and is still working hard to provide nourishment for your
baby. You should not be losing more than a half a pound to a pound per week
or you may affect your milk supply. This is a time to be kind to yourself!

Myth #18: Breastfeeding deprives your mate and other friends and family of
their chance to bond with the baby.

*Reality:* There are lots of ways to bond with a new born. Soothing,
rocking, diapering, and burping the new baby are only a few of these
activities. Anyone can participate in them without depriving the child of
it’s optimal nutrition and nurturing. One wonderful book on this subject is
*Becoming A Father*,
by Dr. William Sears, MD.

Myth #19: Breastfed newborns need vitamin and mineral supplements.

*Reality:* Not true. No vitamin or mineral supplements should be given to
breastfed babies until at least six months. New studies are currently being
conducted as to whether or not such supplements should be given after six
months. Historically, before such supplements were invented, many breastfed
babies survived and thrived for the duration of breastfeeding, which could
last to three years or older. This is not to say that supplementation is not
a good idea after a certain age. It is simply not yet clear what that age
is. At least until your baby is 6 months old, you can be assured that your
breastmilk will provide for all of her nutritional needs.

Myth #20: You can’t take any medication while you’re breastfeeding.

*Reality:* While there are a few medications that should absolutely not
be used during the breastfeeding portion of a woman’s life, most can be
taken safely. It is important that your doctor checks actual research rather
than simply relying on the standard instructions that are issued with the
prescription. Most prescription drugs instructions automatically caution
against being taken by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. This warning is
issued to prevent liability, and is often overly cautious. It’s also a good
idea to ask your doctor about non-prescription drugs. Some of them are not
appropriate for nursing or pregnant women. *The Nursing Mother’s
Companion* ,
by Kathleen Huggins contains a general reference section on which
medications are compatible with breastfeeding. A more up-to-date resource is
*Medications In Mother’s
by Dr. Tom Hale, PhD.

Myth #21: Breastfeeding ties you down.

*Reality:* It is true that breastfed babies are dependent upon their
mothers for their nutrition. This does not mean that a breastfeeding mother
must remain housebound and attached to her baby 24 hours a day. After you
have recovered from the birth, it is not only possible but usually a lot of
fun to take your baby with you on errands, visits to friends, walks in the
park and other outings. Now that it has been clearly established that women
have a right to breastfeed in all public spaces, and with the advent of
excellent breast pumps, the possibilities for nursing mothers to fully
participate in activities outside the home are almost unlimited. It is also
nice not to have the added burden of caring around all that formula
paraphernalia. If you choose to express some of your milk ahead of time you
can easily spend time apart from your baby without relying on artificial

Obviously, taking your baby with you on outings will probably mean you’ll
be nursing him or her in front of others, and maybe in public. Some women
“feel funny” about nursing in front of strangers, or even friends and family
members, probably because the sight of a nursing mother is not something
they themselves are used to seeing. As countless mothers will attest,
however, it’s rare that anyone will stare or say something to you while
you’re breastfeeding; more likely they’ll just look the other way, or not
even notice that you’re nursing! Breastfeeding in public can be very
discreet, especially if you wear clothes that are specially designed for
nursing mothers. In general, the more natural your attitude the less you’ll
notice the reaction of others. If you are hesitant about breastfeeding in
public, just remember – it’s what breasts are made for, and, like so many
other things, the more you do it the easier it will be.

Myth #22: After a year, breastmilk loses all it’s nutritional value.

*Reality:* I have a good friend whose mother tormented her by insisting
that if she continued to breastfeed her 9 month old daughter she would
starve the baby. This belief is a total myth, as is evidenced by the
recently released guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatricians, which
recommend breastfeeding for *at least* one year. While many people are
now aware that breastmilk is the perfect, complete source of nutrition for
babies under 6 months of age, not everyone is aware that breastmilk
continues to provide perfect nutrition as long as the mother continues to
breastfeed. Breastmilk tailors itself to the needs of a child from birth
until weaning. There is no need to worry that at some point the milk will
become worthless. It will always contain valuable nutrients, hormones, and
immunities. It will always be easier to digest than the milk of another
species. As you gradually add new foods to your child’s diet, you can be
assured that your child is getting excellent nutrition, even on those days
when she may choose not to eat much solid food at all.

Myth #23: Serious athletes can’t breastfeed.

*Reality:* A professional ballet dancer once explained to me that she had
to stop nursing after one month because she’d wanted to start taking dance
classes again. She believed that she would be unable to do jumps, and that
her milk would “go sour” from the exercise. In fact, both of these ideas are
myths. While it may be uncomfortable to run, dance, or perform strenuous
physical activity with very full breasts, it is certainly possible to nurse
or pump prior to engaging in such activities. Exercise does not “sour” your
milk. Immediately following a vigorous exercise session the lactic acid
content in you milk may increase and slightly alter the taste of your milk.
However, within an hour or two the lactic acid passes out of the milk again,
leaving it tasting just fine. Also, some researches suggest showering off
after a workout to get rid of salty tasting sweat. And remember, it’s wise
to start back to a previously established exercise regimen gradually,
whether the new mother is breastfeeding or not.

Myth #24: Adoptive mothers can’t breastfeed.

*Reality:* As surprising as this may seem, you do not have to give birth
to a child to produce milk. Many adoptive mothers have successfully
developed their ability to produce milk through pumping, putting the baby to
their breast and allowing it to suckle, and use of a supplementary feeding
system designed to give the baby artificial milk until the mother can begin
to produce her own. In some cases only a little milk will be obtained. In
others, the majority of the baby’s nutrition can be provided from the
adoptive mother’s body. The La Leche
Leaguesite has many interesting
articles on this issue.

Myth #25: After menopause you can’t breastfeed.

*Reality:* Interestingly, women can continue to produce milk after they
are no longer fertile, and have been known to do so into their 80’s! There
is no change in the quality of the milk, and many wet nurses have continued
to practice their profession well past menopause.

Myth #26: Breastfeeding clothes and pumps end up costing as much as

*Reality:* First of all, you don’t need any special clothes or
paraphernalia to breastfeed successfully. Yes, if you plan to pump you
should buy or rent a good, reputable model. Yes, you’ll need storage bags
and bottles, although you’d need even more to formula feed. Yes, it’s nice
to have a few specially designed nursing tops, bras and a nursing pillow.
Re-usable nursing pads are also helpful, and disposable nursing pads are
nice the first few weeks.

However, even with these items taken into consideration, they do not come
close to the expense of formula. Plus, there are all the added medical
expenses you may have to deal with if you formula feed. Also, when you
breastfeed you can re-use most of the items you purchase for one child with
the next. With formula, it’s just as expensive every time.

It is also possible to purchase sewing patterns and make your own nursing
clothes and baby sling if you want to, or create your own pads out of cotton
diapers. A t-shirt with a convenient slit cut in the middle can provide
extra coverage under any pull-up or button down blouse. Nursing bras are
great, but for many women a front closing cotton bra works just as well. Use
your imagination!


*Cost of no-frills style breastfeeding*
No pump, no special clothes, etc.
*Total: $0.00*

*Optional breastfeeding expenses:*

Pump: $200*
Bras(2): $60
Pads (re-usable): $12
Tops(2): $50
Dress(1): $60
*Nursing Pillow: $35*
*Total: $417 (A one-time expense!)*

*NOTE: You save an additional $160 if you use a good manual pump like *
Isis* (increasingly popular with new mothers, especially ones that do not
have to work out of the house) rather than a professional grade one like the
*Pump-in-Style* (also very popular, especially for working mothers).

*Approximate formula expenses:*

Formula: $1,200 (Approximate average)
*Added medical expenses: $1,500* **
*Total: $2,700 (For just one year!)*

That adds up to a difference of $2,283. Wow! And remember, you can use
those nursing clothes again, then consign them or pass them on to a friend.
With formula, it’s just as expensive with every child.

These figures don’t take into account possible future orthodontic
problems, or other more serious adult disease issues associated with bottle
feeding (see ProMoM’s “101 Reasons To Breastfeed Your
Of course, the real bottom line is that no price can be put on the special
intimacy that exists between a nursing mother and child!

*Even more myths and realities can be found
here ,
and yet more here .*

**(According to *Aetna employee research results*) Breastfeeding Myths and
By Leslie Kincaid Burby for ProMoM


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