There are some very misleading myths floating around out there regarding breastfeeding. It seems unbelievable that such important information about a vital, life-supporting function could get misconstrued or made up! With more misinformation than facts out there, many expectant mothers don’t even give breastfeeding the first thought. Mothers who do want to breastfeed are often bombarded with lies and untruths, causing worry and anxiety. Even doctors have been known to give out misinformation to pro-breastfeeding moms. Here are five breastfeeding myths that you probably believe right now.
1. Premature Babies Must Be Fed a Phosphate Formula Instead of Breastmilk
Premature babies only require special formula if they aren’t being breastfed. When a baby is born prematurely, the breastmilk produced by your body will automatically contain more phosphate to account for the phosphate your baby missed out on in utero. While specialty formulas cause premature babies to gain weight more rapidly, breastfed babies outperform in cognitive function and motor skill assessments. They are also let go from the NICU much earlier than formula-fed babies, as much as two weeks sooner.
2. My Breasts Don’t Fill Up
It is sad that women think their breasts must be engorged and painful for them to contain milk. Your breasts don’t have to “refill” before the next feeding. Could you imagine if you had to walk around with extremely full breasts between each feeding? Ouch! When your milk first comes, it actually is normal to be a bit engorged. However, once your body starts to understand how much and how often your baby eats, it will naturally level down to the appropriate amount of milk. From that point on, you should only feel full if you miss a feeding. Consistently waiting this long to feed your baby can actually hurt your supply.
3. You Have to Eat Healthy to Breastfeed
While no one is undermining the importance of proper nutrition, you don’t have to change your diet in order to breastfeed if you don’t want to. It isn’t going to affect your baby or the quality of your breast milk. However, because the evolutionary purpose of life is to reproduce, your breastmilk will suck up a lot of nutrients and pass them onto your baby. Eating healthy should be done regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding. However, hydration is key if you are a breastfeeding mama.
4. My Baby is Allergic to My Breastmilk
This is kind of a myth with a small bit of truth. While it is possible for a baby to have galactosemia, only 47 babies in the entire United States are reported to have it each year. This rare allergy is life-threatening and if it isn’t discovered within the first few days, the baby will die. For moms saying that they weaned their baby at week two or three, there is likely another factor at play.
Proteins consumed by the mother can be passed to the baby through their breastmilk. Milk and soy are common proteins that cause babies to react to the breastmilk. If you are consuming these things, you can continue to breastfeed if you take a break from consuming them.
5. If Your Milk Doesn’t Come In, You Have to Supplement Until It Does
Before your baby is born, your breasts are producing colostrum. Luckily, that’s all you need to feed your newborn. Colostrum is measured in teaspoons, not ounces, and there’s a good reason for that. While this raises the eyebrows of pregnant women, a few teaspoons of colostrum are all your full-term baby requires.
At birth, your baby’s stomach is the size of a marble. It can only hold 5-7 ml of liquid. Since the stomach of a newborn doesn’t stretch, it can only hold a tiny amount. Anything extra given to the baby is going to come right back up! Milk typically takes around five days to come in, with the baby’s stomach being able to hold two ounces. It’s all about supply and demand. Keep feeding your baby small doses day and night, you will have a healthy supply until they are ready to come off of breastmilk.
Falling into these myths that are so widely perpetuated can be very harmful to newborn babies. Believing these myths and taking action based on these beliefs has damaged the healthy breastmilk supply of many mothers who were hoping to breastfeed. It’s time to start spreading the truth about breastfeeding so that the mothers of tomorrow don’t fall into the same myths that some of us did!