Common breastfeeding myths that need busting

breastfeeding baby

Whether you ask for it or not, breastfeeding advice is bound to come your way at some point during your pregnancy or breastfeeding journey. Some advice will come from professionals,  from those around you, and even from random strangers in the supermarket queue who simply feel the need to comment on something that is actually none of their business.

We’re here to help you separate the facts from myths!

Bad advice from healthcare professionals 

The truth is that healthcare professionals are often not up to date on the topic of breastfeeding. As a result, they either give the wrong advice or steer her in the direction of formula feeding. The knowledge base of breastfeeding is constantly evolving, and oftentimes, even your favourite doctor might not be equipped with the correct information.

Remember that other mothers offer advice based on their own journey

Many women had negative breastfeeding journeys. Today’s grandmothers raised children in an era where there was very little support for breastfeeding mothers, and many had negative breastfeeding experiences – of course, this impacts their emotions and opinions surrounding the topic. Friends with babies who are formula-fed may not understand normal breastfeeding patterns. Their comments can unintentionally make a breastfeeding mom feel that she is doing something wrong.

As a lactation consultant, I assist mothers with a wide variety of breastfeeding issues, many stemming from poor advice and support. I have identified below five common breastfeeding myths there are many more, but these are favourites that all mothers are bound to hear along the way). If you receive this advice from an individual, chances are that this (possibly well-meaning) person is not the best equipped to support you on your breastfeeding journey.

READ MORE: Top 5 Things You Need for Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding myths busted – what you really need to know

  1. You should prepare your nipples for breastfeeding in pregnancy already by scrubbing them with a toothbrush or applying spirits

No, no, no! Your nipples need no preparation to toughen them up for breastfeeding. During pregnancy, the Montgomery glands on your areola will excrete oil to naturally lubricate and moisturise your nipples. Scrubbing them may cause pain and infection which can be harmful to breastfeeding in the end.

  1. You should feed your baby for a certain time period on each breast (eg 15 minutes per side)

You should never interrupt your baby while still feeding from a breast if you can help it. Allow your baby to empty one breast properly during a feed, as this gives the baby the highest amount of calories. If the baby still seems hungry you can then offer the other side as well. Alternate your breasts between feeds. Some babies are happy to feed on only one breast per feed, while others may want both. Limiting a baby’s time on a breast will lead to an array of problems including a baby not getting full, poor weight gain, lumps in the breast, mastitis, and reduced milk supply.

  1. Your baby should be on a schedule – so feed every 3-4 hours, only feed a certain amount of times per night, etc.

This is probably the most common breastfeeding myth. Your baby is a unique individual and will follow his own feeding and sleep patterns, with few babies truly fitting into set schedules decided upon by so-called experts.  Breastmilk is 100% perfect for your baby and digests so well that baby may very well be hungry earlier than a formula-fed baby. Breast babies feed on average 1,5-2 hourly, and most will need to feed at night for at least the first year of life. Routines will also change as your baby grows older. Observe your baby and you will soon understand and adapt to his patterns.

  1. Don’t spoil your baby or create bad habits by letting the baby use your breast as a dummy

Babies have both an emotional and a physical need for sucking. A breastfeeding mom and baby are so closely connected that the baby will automatically turn to the mom to help him process any changes and stressors in his environment. Some babies have a bigger need for sucking than others. This can indeed be challenging in the early weeks. But not only does it create safety and security for your baby, but it also helps to stimulate and establish your milk supply. So grab a book or catch a nap, and let your baby suck as much as he needs.

  1. You should now cut specific foods from your diet as they will give your baby cramps

Research has shown that breastfeeding mothers can eat all foods in moderation.  Another approach is to eat as you ate during your pregnancy. This is the environment in which your baby grew. If you suspect that a certain food is responsible for your baby’s discomfort you can try to avoid it for a few days. If you see no difference in your baby’s behaviour the food is probably not the culprit.

ALSO READ: Five things every new mom should hear

Where to go for breastfeeding advice?

  • Firstly and most importantly, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t right for you and your baby. Remember that you love your baby more than anyone else. You are the best person to make decisions for your baby.
  • New mothers should line up at least one female support person for the early days and weeks after birth. This should preferably be someone who breastfed her own children. As crucial as a new father’s role is, women really benefit from the support of other women in this fragile period.
  • Choose a few people that you trust and whose opinion you value and ask them for input on baby matters. For the rest, just say thank you and move along. Luckily, we don’t need to listen to all we hear.
  • Do not hesitate to contact a lactation consultant. There are actually professionals specialized in the field of breastfeeding who can assist you to determine what are common breastfeeding myths versus credible concerns.
  • Ask your lactation consultant for referrals to breastfeeding-friendly doctors, paediatricians and well-baby clinics in your area. Use these professionals to assist with all your general health queries.

Enjoy your baby and don’t doubt yourself – you have what it takes to be the parent your baby needs.

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Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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