Breastfeeding Facts (and Fictions)

August 1, 2019   Pregnancy & Postpartum

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Women are pretty miraculous. To think that moms can provide the ideal combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and nutrients for their babies through their breast milk is nothing short of AMAZING. The word “breast” has a whole new meaning when you become a mother. Some of the most intimate, one-on-one time with your newborn is when your baby is nursing. It’s a phase that goes by in the blink of an eye and should be cherished. However, what chapter of motherhood doesn’t come with a healthy dose of frustration at times? Below we dispel a few common breastfeeding myths and share some important facts to keep in mind when nursing your baby.

Breastfeeding: True or False?

There are ways to increase milk production

True: As mothers, we typically don’t put ourselves first. Taking excellent care of yourself is often the best way to increase milk production. This includes drinking enough water, getting plenty of rest, eating a well-balanced diet, and allocating time each day for movement. Some women take herbal supplements like fenugreek or thistle, or they drink Mother’s Milk Tea or coconut milk to help increase milk supply. These items can be found at your local supermarket or online. If you’re awaiting the arrival of your bundle of joy, consider taking a breastfeeding class or meeting with a lactation consultant for guidance.

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Nursing when you're sick is a bad idea

False: Breastfeeding when you’re feeling under the weather will actually help your baby build his or her immune system. The germ-fighting antibodies that your body makes when you have a cold or the flu will transfer to your baby when nursing. In fact, your infant may not get sick as often or might experience a less severe case of illness due to breastfeeding.

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You can't drink alcohol or coffee

False: Indulging in a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer once or twice a week is acceptable. However, drinking too much while breastfeeding can stunt your baby’s growth and development. To ensure that your breastmilk is free of alcohol, wait at least two and a half hours before nursing. As a tip, pump before you grab a drink with friends or watch The Bachelorette on the couch with a glass of wine, in case your baby is hungry while the alcohol is still in your system.

It can be extremely difficult to make it through the day after a sleepless night without a little caffeine boost. Pour yourself a cup (or two). Of note, consuming too much can make your baby restless or irritable so stick to three servings or less of caffeine throughout the day to ensure it doesn’t accumulate in your baby’s body.

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You should start pumping immediately to build up a supply of milk before returning to work

False: This decision is best left to the mother as all circumstances are different. Depending on the length of one’s maternity leave, most women try to breastfeed as long as they can before beginning to pump. It is almost always best to wait until at least two weeks after your baby is born to begin pumping, but ideally, we recommend waiting four or five weeks. For mothers who are pumping in preparation for their return to work, remember that breast milk lasts 6-12 months in the freezer.

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Breastfeeding can be stressful

True: New moms are often concerned that their babies aren’t eating enough. Women (and new parents in general) get fixated on the amount of breast milk available for the baby and forget that they are doing their very best to give the baby the nourishment and antibodies they need. If your baby seems content after eating, produces 4-6 wet diapers a day, has frequent bowel movements, sleeps well, and is gaining weight, he or she is consuming the nutrients they need. Keep a notebook handy and write down when your baby feeds, the duration that he or she fed on each breast, and when the baby goes number 1 or number 2. Your baby can sense if you’re feeling tense or nervous when breastfeeding and may not latch on correctly. Take a deep breath, sit in a comfortable position, put on some soothing music, and try to relax.

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All mothers should nurse

False: Every mother is different. What works for one mom may not work for another. Although there are a variety of health benefits for your baby when breastfeeding, it does not make you an unfit mother if you prefer to feed your baby formula. There are a variety of healthy formula options you can choose from. Feeding your infant so they grow big and strong is the priority, regardless if it is with breast milk, formula, or a combination of both.

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Janet Perkins, MD

Breastfeeding is a natural process; you and your baby will get the hang of it eventually. Sometimes a few slight adjustments can make all the difference in the world.

— Janet Perkins, M.D.

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