When you're breastfeeding (or planning to), it seems everyone from Aunt Martha to your hairstylist will ply you with plenty of advice. But with so many myths and semi-truths out there, it can be hard to know what's true and what's not. Dr. Jack Newman, author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book Of Answers
, helps you sort through it all.
Myth: Many women do not produce enough milk
The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. In fact, an overabundance of milk is common. Most babies that gain too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The usual reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. This is why it is so important that the mother be shown, on the first day, how to latch a baby on properly, by someone who knows what they are doing.
Myth: It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt
Though some tenderness during the first few days is relatively common, this should be a temporary situation that lasts only a few days and should never be so bad that the mother dreads nursing. Any pain that is more than mild is abnormal and is almost always due to the baby latching on poorly. Check with your doctor if the pain is not getting better by day three or four or lasts beyond five or six days. Taking the baby off the breast for the nipples to heal should only be a last resort.
Myth: A baby should be on the breast 20 minutes on each side
How long the baby is on your breast isn't as important as how long he's actually breastfeeding: If a baby is actually drinking for most of 15 to 20 minutes on the first side, he may not want to take the second side at all. On the other hand, if he drinks only a minute on the first side, and then nibbles or sleeps, and does the same on the other, no amount of time will be enough. The key thing you should ensure is that your baby latches onto your breast properly, so he can breastfeed better and longer.
Myth: Breastfed babies need extra water in hot weather
Breastmilk contains all the water a baby needs.
Myth: You should wash your nipples each time before feeding your baby
This worry about hygiene is likely to have stemmed from bottle-feeding. Formula feeding requires careful attention to cleanliness because formula not only does not protect the baby against infection, but also is actually a good breeding ground for bacteria and can also be easily contaminated. On the other hand, breastmilk protects the baby against infection. Washing nipples before each feeding not only makes breastfeeding unnecessarily complicated, it also washes away protective oils from the nipple.