Ten Breastfeeding Myths
Written by Tanya, IBCLC
A few months ago we shared some ten common myths about breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there are many more worrisome myths about breastfeeding and we thought we'd debunk another ten below.
Breastfeeding makes your hair fall out. It's common to lose more hair than usual after having a baby, usually at about three months postpartum, but this will happen whether you breastfeed or not. Your hair loss is not due to breastfeeding but to the drop in the hormones that gave you a fuller head of hair during pregnancy. Hair grows in a three-month cycle, so the loss often occurs when mothers are breastfeeding - hence the misconception.
“Pumping and dumping” will remove alcohol from your breastmilk. The amount of alcohol in your breastmilk is directly related to the amount of alcohol in your blood. Pumping milk will not lower the alcohol content in your milk. The alcohol level in your milk will go down when your blood levels go down. That happens over time, and pumping will not speed it up.
A baby who wants to nurse all the time must not be getting enough milk. Often, frequent feeding is a sign of a growth spurt. During a growth spurt, your baby has increased caloric needs and she nurses more in order to increase your milk supply. The most reliable way to tell if a baby is receiving enough milk is to weigh your baby on a scale designed for babies.
A baby who feeds infrequently must be getting enough milk. Babies who feed infrequently are sometimes doing so because they are not consuming enough milk. They may sleep more (and so feed infrequently) because they are conserving energy. Preterm and near-term babies are notoriously sleepy feeders and have to be woken to ensure that they receive enough milk. As noted above, the most reliable way to tell if a baby is receiving enough milk is to weigh your baby on a scale designed for babies.
Breastfeeding will make your breasts sag. Pregnancy does make your breasts sag but this happens whether you breastfeed or not. In fact, one study of twins (one twin breastfed, the other twin didn't) even suggests that breastfeeding actually protects against sagging.
Your colostrum can run out. A mother's milk gradually changes from colostrum to mature milk and doesn't “run out.” If there is a delay in mature milk onset, a baby's needs can start to exceed the amount of colostrum you produce, and it can appear that your colostrum is running out. If your milk is late coming in, be sure to consult with a breastfeeding support person.
Waiting a long time between feedings will help you make more milk. Some women think that the feeling of fullness you get if you go a long time in between feedings means that they are making more milk. In fact, in the long run, the opposite is true. Fullness sends a message to your breasts that you are making more milk than is needed, and, over time, you will make less milk as a result. It may be helpful to remember the phrase, “an empty breast makes more milk.”
Exclusive breastfeeding past six months is harmful to a baby. Some babies are slow to start solids, and as long as they are growing and developing normally on your breastmilk, this shouldn't be a cause for concern. Kellymom recommends keeping an eye on growth and iron status, watching for signs of readiness, continuing to offer solids, and letting the baby decide when she is ready!
You can judge your milk production by pumping. Some women produce a lot of milk when pumping and others don't respond to the pump at all, even when they are producing plenty of milk. So measuring milk production by pumping output is not reliable. As noted above, the most reliable way to tell if a baby is receiving enough milk is to weigh your baby on a scale designed for babies.
No leaking or no letdown sensation means no milk. Some women leak and some women feel a letdown sensation when breastfeeding, but others don't. The absence of either of these does not mean that you are not making enough milk. As noted above, the most reliable way to tell if a baby is receiving enough milk is to weigh your baby on a scale designed for babies.
Have questions? Get help! If you need help figuring out anything related to breastfeeding, seek out help from a lactation consultant (IBCLC), a La Leche League leader, a Breastfeeding USA counselor, or your local WIC office breastfeeding peer counselor. Breastfeeding support works best when you get it early!