21:39 PM

Breastfeeding: Myths and Misconceptions

Tiffani Cunningham, RN, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Holy Rosary Healthcare 

The first hours and days after birth are filled with love, bonding, and new experiences. Choosing to breastfeed your newborn is the first of many decisions you will make for your child. The short- and long-term benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby have been proven time and again. However, parents are often bombarded with information and advice from family, friends, and social media that may lead them to wean early or choose another feeding option. In honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common breastfeeding myths and misconceptions.  

“Breastfeeding is natural, so it should be easy.” While breastfeeding is the biological norm, the practice itself is a learned behavior for both mother and baby, requiring time and patience. Your healthcare team can help you learn to recognize early feeding cues, demonstrate how to position your baby, and identify signs of a proper latch. Some pregnancy or birth complications may make the early days more challenging. Support from family, peers, and healthcare staff is essential during this difficult time.  

“I don’t have enough milk for my baby.” At some point, most mothers will worry that their baby is not getting enough to eat. This is especially true before the mature milk comes in around three to five days after birth. Mother’s first milk, colostrum, is white to yellow in appearance and may be present as early as the 16th week of pregnancy. It is often referred to as “liquid gold” due to its high concentration of essential nutrients and its anti-infective properties. Babies are weighed often in the early weeks to ensure adequate nutrition. Additionally, your doctor may ask you to track your newborn’s wet and dirty diapers.  

“I cannot breastfeed if I am sick or taking medication.” Most often, it is best to continue nursing your child when you are sick. The protective antibodies that your body makes in response to your illness will be passed to your baby through breast milk. Use good hand hygiene and contact your doctor if you are unsure. Small amounts of medication will pass into the breast milk, so it is important to check with your pharmacist or physician before starting a new medication or supplement. Certain medications, including some forms of birth control and over-the-counter antihistamines, can impact milk production.  

“My baby will be spoiled if I breastfeed on demand.” On-demand breastfeeding, sometimes referred to as responsive breastfeeding, means that the baby is fed each time he or she demonstrates feeding cues. The baby is allowed to nurse until satisfied, without time restrictions. Biologically, this is superior to scheduled feedings because milk production works on a supply and demand basis. On-demand breastfeeding allows the infant to regulate mom’s milk supply to his or her nutritional needs. During a growth spurt, babies will nurse more frequently to stimulate milk production. It may also support emotional and cognitive development, as responsiveness facilitates trust in the first year of life.  

Like pregnancy and birth, no two breastfeeding experiences are the same, so it is best to avoid comparisons and take it easy on yourself! Remember, breastfeeding may not be right for every family. Infant formula is designed to mimic breast milk as closely as possible, making it the best alternative. If you bottle feed your newborn, ensure that your baby is held during feeding sessions to promote feelings of security and attachment. 

Tiffani Cunningham is a registered nurse with the obstetrics unit at Holy Rosary Healthcare. She is also a board certified lactation consultant. To learn more, call 406-233-2600 or online at hrh-mt.org/baby.