5 myths about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding provides many benefits to moms and babies. Not only does it encourage bonding between mother and baby, but breast milk contains vital nutrients and antibodies to keep your baby healthy and protected against infections and obesity later in life.
Women who breastfeed are also at lower risk of developing a variety of diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or breast and ovarian cancers.
Despite these benefits, misinformation about breastfeeding still exists. Let's set the record straight on some common myths.
Myth: Breastmilk doesn't have all the nutrients a baby needs.
Fact: Breast milk is sometimes referred to as "liquid gold" because of the deep yellow color it has right after a mother gives birth. This golden milk, called colostrum, contains all the essential nutrients a baby needs to be healthy.
The hormones and antibodies in breastmilk help prevent illness in newborns, and breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, obesity, gastrointestinal infections, and ear and respiratory infections. As your baby grows, your breastmilk matures and will always contain just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein needed to support your child's growth.
Myth: Breastfeeding changes the shape of your breasts.
Fact: Breastfeeding doesn't automatically change the appearance of your breasts. Pregnancy, not breastfeeding, is what stretches the ligaments in the breasts, which can cause sagging.
Pregnancy affects each woman's body differently. Age, genetics, and the number of pregnancies a woman has play a bigger role in breast changes than nursing. Breasts may change consistency, but many women see their breast size and shape return to normal when they stop nursing.
For most women, the size and shape of your breasts do not affect your milk supply or ability to breastfeed.
Myth: You must change your diet drastically to breastfeed.
Fact: Nursing mothers should eat a balanced diet, but you don't need to rethink everything you eat. Start by eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Drinking plenty of water is also important to keep your body hydrated and maintain milk volume.
Myth: Breastfeeding prevents pregnancy.
Fact: It's still possible to become pregnant while nursing. Any time a woman is ovulating, there's the chance she may become pregnant.
Breastfeeding may delay or even stop ovulation in some women — which is where this misconception comes from — but women must follow specific guidelines to be successful. The method is called lactational amenorrhea, and research indicates if these guidelines are followed closely, it can be 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
If you're interested in preventing pregnancy while breastfeeding, speak to your provider about your birth control options.
Myth: All babies need to be weaned by 12 months.
Fact: Less frequent nursing sessions, or weaning, often begins in some form once solid food is introduced to a baby's diet — usually around 6 months old — but when to stop is a personal decision.
The Office of Women's Health states there's no evidence breastfeeding an older child has a negative effect on development. Even after solid foods have been introduced to your child's diet, a mother may decide to continue breastfeeding.
Get breastfeeding support and resources
Breastfeeding isn't always easy. Learning what works for you and your baby takes time. Reid Health's support services for nursing mothers can offer helpful breastfeeding tips and suggestions. Our Certified Lactation Consultants are also here to help!
Want to learn more about breastfeeding? Request an OB/GYN appointment at Reid.