Breastfeeding is nature’s way of nourishing infants, but breastfeeding continues to be steeped in half-truths and myths around the world. This misinformation that has somehow made it into common culture ends up putting up barriers to breastfeeding for many new mothers.
World Breastfeeding Week continues until August 7, with a goal to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding for a healthy child and a healthy community. Breastfeeding is an economical and ecologically-friendly way of giving your baby a head start. Those are facts, but here are seven mistruths about breastfeeding…
1. Most Women Don’t Produce Enough Milk
This is a mistruth according to the International Breastfeeding Center, and the size of the breasts can sometimes be associated with capacity for milk. The truth is most women produce enough supply for an infant, and in many cases there’s actually an overabundance of milk, according to the source.
This myth is perpetuated due the fact that an infant may not be gaining weight as quickly as expected, but it’s important to keep in mind this is not a supply issue–it’s a technique issue, according to the center. If junior is falling behind in development, consult a health professional to assist with proper latching.
2. Babies Should Bottle Feed for the First Few Days
Not only will breastfeeding promote bonding between baby and mother during their early days, it’s also an important source of colostrum, which is a thick substance that is high in proteins and natural antibodies (for immunity) that you won’t get from formula feeding.
The La Leche League notes colostrum is “extremely easy to digest” and therefore easy on baby’s brand new tummy. It delivers a high amount of nutrition within a small volume, the source adds. Breast milk will slowly replace colostrum after a few days of feeding.
3. Babies that Breastfeed Don’t Get Vitamin D
This vitamin is produced by exposure to the sun, but it’s also found in other natural sources–including breastmilk. While many bottle formulas are fortified with Vitamin D, breastmilk delivers a substantial dose of the important vitamin.
However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that breastfeeding alone may not deliver as much Vitamin D to infants as they require. It’s also important to take baby outside for some sunlight exposure, but it doesn’t have to be every day. Take precautions to protect their sensitive skin (don’t overdo it).
4. If You’re Sick, You Shouldn’t Breastfeed
Just because you’re feeling under the weather doesn’t mean you can’t naturally feed your child, notes BreastfeedingBasics.com. In fact, “There are very few illnesses that require a mother to stop nursing,” explains the site.
The site explains that your baby has likely already been exposed to the virus that is making you ill, and breastfeeding will actually help fortify your baby’s response to the virus through antibodies from your system. Even being HIV positive is not a reason to stop breastfeeding, notes other sources (although antiretroviral drugs will likely be prescribed during the first year of breastfeeding).
5. Breastfeeding will Increase Infection Risk
Many mothers are afraid that having baby latch regularly will cause them pain and lead to damage or infection of the nipple. While mastitis–otherwise known as breast infection–can occur, the International Breastfeeding Center explains that breastfeeding can actually help the breast heal faster by clearing blocked ducts.
It’s important not to let mastitis discourage you from continuing to breastfeed, as it often occurs within weeks of when the child starts feeding. The Mayo Clinic adds that if you are put on antibiotics to combat the infection, it’s still safe to feed baby while you’re following the treatment. An adjustment to how baby is latching may also be necessary.
6. Most Medicines are Harmful to Babies through Breastmilk
There’s also the belief that medications will end up in your baby in high concentrations that can affect their health. While some traces of over-the-counter and prescription drugs will appear in breastmilk, most are considered safe to take between feedings, according to BabyCenter.com.
In fact, BabyCenter.com has compiled a handy list showing drugs that are considered safe for breastfeeding, and they include many pain relievers, antiviral medications, beta blockers, antibiotics, certain anti-anxiety remedies and more. The source does warn against taking some diuretics, antidepressants, and even antihistamines as they could reduce milk supply or infant drowsiness.
7. Breastfeeding in Public is Mostly Illegal
Not true, although many people will likely try to tell you otherwise. The national policy for breastfeeding in the U.S. is that women may breastfeed on a federal property (as long as the mother and child are authorized to be in the building). Workplaces must provide adequate time for new mothers to express breastmilk during shifts under federal law.
Many state laws say public breastfeeding is perfectly allowable. What’s missing, according to BreastfeedingLaw.com, are the enforcement provisions–meaning even if the state or region permits it, there may be no legal recourse for a mother who is harassed by an individual who disagrees with her feeding her child in public.