Bad Advice about Breastfeeding–Boobie Traps!

Posted on April 20, 2012


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Writing this article was a bit discouraging.  There is so much misinformation out there about breastfeeding that it’s a wonder anyone ever breastfeeds successfully!  The most daunting aspect is that so much of this advice comes from well-meaning sources or from what should be a trusted source.  Some of these boobie traps were ones I encountered.  I received this information from either a family member or a healthcare practitioner, even from my own education in nursing school!

How can you tell if the information you are getting is from a reliable source?  Well, obviously if their advice is included on my list you should be highly skeptical. You may already take the advice you get from your mother-in-law or grandmother with a grain of salt, but it’s hard to even realize your doctor or other healthcare practitioner (maternity nurses!) may not be the best source of information or help when it comes to breastfeeding.

Also?  Don’t trust Dr. Internet.  I have included a list of trusted resources at the end of this article, their advice is evidence-based, current and sound.  I’d be skeptical of other sources.  Some “breastfeeding help” websites are actually set up by formula companies!  it should also be noted that the purpose of Breastfeeding Advocates, like myself, is to inform and support women about breastfeeding and breastfeeding issues.  I am comfortable giving advice about what’s normal, what your rights are, and supporting you in breastfeeding, but I’m not qualified to diagnose and treat a specific breastfeeding problem.

I’ve also noticed many baby message board are full of bad advice on breastfeeding.  This primarily comes in the form of advice from mothers who did not have success breastfeeding.  Why they troll the breastfeeeding boards, I’m not sure, but while their advice is generally in the spirit of helpfulness, it is often quite bad.  It almost always includes the phrase, “it’s ok to quit.”  When breastfeeding gets really tough and a sleep-deprived mother is at her wits end, the best advice and support is in the form of practical, sound advice for figuring out the problem (and that may be, “Go see a lactation consultant”) and the encouragement that things will get better, to keep going.  Sharing confidence in the body’s ability to breastfeed is one of the most powerful tools all breastfeeding mothers have.

The best and most reliable help you can get is from a qualified lactation consultant.  Only they have the training and experience necessary to properly asses and develop a plan of action for your specific case.   Most hospitals employ them and you should ask to speak to one right away after the birth of your child.  If you are having a homebirth, check around before the birth of your baby, so you know the number to one if you should encounter problems.  Also, if you anticipate there might be problems (if you’ve had breast reduction surgery or you had trouble breastfeeding previous children, for example) you may want to go ahead and contact one before you have your baby.

I would also recommend attending some La Leche League meetings while you are still pregnant.  They are a wonderful source or support and information.  Being around all those nursing mothers will help you get a sense of what it’s like to breastfeed and if you do run into issues, you will have a support system in place already.  It should be noted that I’ve heard even very experienced nursing mamas at these meetings give some very bad advice.  Stick to using the group leader as a resource for problems and questions.

I hope this article helps you to avoid Boobie Traps!

Wait to feed him for 3-4 hours, then he’ll drink more and stay satisfied longer.

Wrong.  Breastfeed on demand! This little pearl of wisdom was very popular in the mid 20th century when physicians advised mothers to put their babies on a feeding schedule (which may explain why you get this advice from your mother or mother-in-law).  It was based on what doctors understood about how to feed a baby formula–which is how most formula babies eat.  Breastmilk is not digested the same way.   It is really bad advice that can lead to low supply, weight loss, and a really unhappy baby.

Your baby is underweight because you breastfeed.  You need to supplement.

Not likely.  You will probably hear this from your doctor. There are two weight charts used to determine the proper weight gain for infants.  One is the CDC chart which is based on formula fed babies.  The other is the WHO chart which is based on breastfed babies.  Why is your doctor using a CDC chart to determine the weight of your breastfed baby?  Good question.  Even the CDC now recommends using the WHO chart for all babies 0-24 months instead of their old chart.

Give him formula before bed, it will help him sleep longer.

Nope.  But supplementing will decrease your milk supply, ruin your baby’s pristine gut, increase his risk for SIDS and deprive him of a special component of milk which actually makes your baby sleepy.  This is an old wives tale that has been disproven by numerous medical studies.  Keep breastfeeding!

But a little rice cereal in the bottle before bedtime.

Please don’t ever do this.  It was common practice during the mid 20th century, but it is not a good idea.  Little babies aren’t ready for real food yet, even that tiny rice cereal. The cereal will take away from the milk in the bottle (or from what they get from the breast) and baby may not get adequate milk volume for proper growth and development.  Conversely, baby is being given a higher concentration of calories without being able to regulate her own intake (leads to weight problems).   It’s also a choking hazard.

The tomatoes/chocolates/spicy food you’re eating is giving him gas and making him fussy.

No.  Babies are fussy.  They get more fussy, then less fussy, then fussy all over again.  Restricting your diet will not help, and it may do some harm.  There are rare cases where the baby is reacting to food in your diet, but they are not the norm. Most commonly, “colic”, “gassiness” and crying can be improved by changing breastfeeding techniques, rather than changing the mother’s diet.  If you really think something in your diet might be causing your baby severe discomfort, contact a lactation consultant to help you safely and reasonably examine your diet.

Ask your doctor.

This seems like such sound advice doesn’t it?  Unless your doctor is an IBLCE, they are not the experts on breastfeeding.  They are the experts on treating your baby’s illness and helping maintain his health.  You’d think that would include breastfeeding, but unless your MD is Dr. Jack Newman, it doesn’t.  The training they receive in medical school is minimal, and does not deal with the practical aspect of breastfeeding.  After medical school, most of the information physicians get regarding infant feeding comes from formula company representatives or advertisements.  Seek advice from a certified lactation consultant with any breastfeeding issues.

Your baby breastfeeds every 2 hours?  She is probably not getting enough milk.

False.  The best way to know if your baby is getting enough milk is if she is gaining weight, filling the requisite number of diapers with urine or feces, and if she is overall acting normally.  Babies go through growth spurts in which they will go to the breast frequently.  Sometimes even every 15 minutes!  This is totally normal.  It helps increase your milk production to meet baby’s growing needs.  If you supplement at this point, you will not have enough milk and you have been seriously BOOBYTRAPPED!  Additionally, some babies will clusterfeed at night in preparation for longer time intervals between feedings.  That’s a good thing!

If you breastfeed in public, everyone will see your tits.

Generally, the most anyone can see of your breasts when you nurse in public is a quick flash of nipple as baby latches on (and they have to be looking pretty close), and a bit of breast or areola (again, they have to be quite close).  The baby covers your nipple and most of the exposed breast.  The exposure is a bit more if you have a top that pulls down instead of up, but it’s really not more than the cleavage you see a lot of women sporting these days.  Breastfeeding in public is a necessary part of breastfeeding, unless you plan to stay home all day.

You need a nursing cover to breastfeed in public.

No, you don’t need a cover.  I’m not a fan of them.  I think they are cumbersome, interfere with good breastfeeding practices and draw attention to you.  However, if you want to use one, by all means, go ahead.  Women should do what makes them most comfortable nursing in public.

You shouldn’t nurse in public because it will make other people uncomfortable.

You are feeding your baby.  There is nothing inappropriate or indecent about it.  It’s a baby eating.  You are not exposing yourself or doing anything wrong.  If it makes someone uncomfortable to see someone feeding their baby in public, that is their problem, not yours.  Your problem is getting your hungry baby fed.  Besides, your human right to breastfeed your baby is protected by law (Canada USA).

Many women don’t make enough breastmilk.

How did the human race survive this long?  It is true that a few women have a physiological difficulty producing breastmilk.  By far, the vast majority can.  The bigger problem is women getting boobytrapped into not producing enough milk.  The biggest boobytrap is an improper latch.  A mother needs to be shown on day one by someone who knows what they are doing how to help the baby latch, and what a proper latch looks like.

You’re breasts need time to fill in between feedings.

Your body is always producing milk. Your breasts do not need to “fill” to feed baby.  It is normal that a breastfeeding woman’s breasts feel less full as her body adjusts to her baby’s milk intake. This can happen suddenly and may occur as early as two weeks after birth or even earlier. The breast is never “empty” and also produces milk as the baby nurses.

Just give her a bottle, it’s easier.

No, it’s not.  Here’s what a breastfeeding mother needs to do to feed her baby: lift up shirt, attach baby.  Here’s what a bottle-feeding mother has to do: Buy formula or pump milk, sterilize bottle & nipple, mix formula, warm up milk, feed baby, wash & repeat.  Also?  You can sleep when you learn to breastfeed side-lying.  It’s not good practice to prop up a bottle!

Your baby doesn’t need to eat at night.

Yes, they do.  This is true whether you breastfeed or formula feed.  Babies have small stomaches and their demand for energy is great because of the incredible rate of growth they are undergoing.  Please feed your hungry babies at night if they ask for it.  Also?  Ever wake up thirsty at 2am?  You wouldnt’ deprive yourself that sip of water to quench your thirst, don’t do it to your baby.

You need to give formula the first few days, that 1st milk isn’t enough.

No way! This comes from two misunderstandings.  1) Improper latch.  The baby needs to be properly latched to get the colostrum (how do I know I have a good latch?).  There is not much of it, and while a baby with a poor latch may get enough milk once the milk is abundant, they will have a lot of difficulty getting the colostrum.  2) Some people think the colostrum itself is not good for the baby.  Very wrong.  It was the perfect first food for a newborn.

You shouldn’t breastfeed a baby after 3 months.

False.  Most major medical associations agree that babies should be breastfed for at least the first year of life.  Stopping at 3 months is depriving them of their perfect food.

You need to switch to formula at 6 months.

No, breastmilk will change to meet the growing needs of your baby.  Breastmilk is the perfect food for your 6 month old (and 7 month, & 8 month, & 9/10/11/12 month old).  In fact breastmilk should continue to be the primary food until about 12 months of age.  Food under 1 is just for fun!

You should stop breastfeeding after the 1st birthday.

You should breastfeed until at least 1 year, and then for as long thereafter as mother and baby desire.  In fact, breastfeeding your baby past the first year is normal.   WHO even recommends breastfeeding your baby until they are 2 years old, which I think should be the gold standard.  There is no physiological reason to stop breastfeeding your baby after their first birthday, babies will continue to benefit from breastmilk well past infancy.

Breastfeeding will make your baby less independent.

Why?  People in western culture often have a view of independence which is not helpful to the development of small children.  Children gain independence at their own rate, forcing it prematurely is not apt to create a secure individual.  Breastfeeding is a great way to give your child the confidence and security they need to go out and meet the daily challenges of their still-new world.  It makes them more independent.

 Breastfeeding mothers need a special room for their comfort.

It’s always nice when you are visiting someone’s home and they offer a private bedroom or quiet are for you to nurse.  Maybe you want to take them up on it, but don’t feel you are obligated to.  The reality is that breastfeeding is an enormous part of our lives and we spend many hours a day doing it.  Sometimes we can find a quiet time to spend bonding with baby over breastfeeding, but often we just need to get our groceries done, pick up other kids, or want to visit with friends and family.  If you want to take the opportunity to find a quiet place to nurse at the mall or at a party, do so, but don’t feel you have to put your life on hold to feed your baby.  And don’t let someone else dictate what would be most comfortable for you–you decide that.

There is only really one breastfeeding position.

This was one of my boobie traps.  Looking back now, I can’t imagine why, except that at the time I thought it would be weird to feed my baby if he was doing anything but lying down.  I didn’t understand that it was normal for an older baby to want to sit up and nurse.  Basically, any position that is comfortable for you and baby is probably a good position.  Many of us start out doing a clutch hold or a cross-cradle, but as time goes on, baby will have other ideas.  Don’t pigeonhole yourself and your baby into thinking there is just one way to feed.  And older baby often likes to breastfeed while sitting or even standing.  Even some small babies prefer an upright position.  Not to mention, the sleep-saving side-lying position is a must for tired mamas!

You can’t breastfeed in your sleep!

Oh yes you can.  This is actually a great benefit of breastfeeding.  Sleeping close to your baby actually helps the breastfeeding relationship, and helps you get more sleep too!  Please read up on how to safely cosleep and/or bedshare with your baby.  It’s a wonderful experience.

Your husband won’t bond with your baby if you’re breastfeeding all the time.

Of course he will.  He’s the baby’s father.  Sure, breastfeeding is a great way to bond, but it’s not the only way.  Daddy can babywear, do skin-to-skin, rock, walk or burp the baby.  He can sing to her, make funny faces at her.  Hold her when she’s sick or tired.  Change her diaper, put on her clothes, give her a bath, take a bath with her.  Basically everything but breastfeed.  If you are set on Daddy being part of the feeding cycle, there are still many ways he can participate, in fact, the support of a partner is critical to the success of breastfeedingDr. Sears recommends that Daddy bring the hungry baby to Mama.  That way the baby knows when he sees Daddy, food is not far behind!

Breastfeeding is a special moment between mom and baby.

Well.  This is not entirely false.  There can be a lot of special moments between Mama and Baby when breastfeeding.  But when you are nursing your child 12+ times a day, they aren’t all special moments.  It’s just a part of our regular routine.  Forcing the idea that all breastfeeding moments are special puts way too much pressure on Mama to create an ideal situation for breastfeeding.  Think of it this way.  Sometimes a meal is a wonderful, well thought-out way to spend an evening talking and bonding with friends, and sometimes it’s scarfing down a PB&J sandwich over the sink when you’re running late for work.  Breastfeeding is a lot like that.

You have to be a certain type of mother to breastfeed.

I don’t even know what this means, but I’ve heard it a few times.  All I can say is, lots of different types of mothers breastfeed their children.  You don’t have to be any specific kind of mother.

You need to wean if you are returning to work.

Working and breastfeeding has its challenges, but many women go on to do both successfully.  Here is an extensive list of resources that can help you figure out how to return to work and still breastfeed.  Basically, when you are with baby, you should breastfeed, when you are not, you should pump, ideally every time baby will take a bottle, to maintain an adequate supply.

If you breastfeed your baby too long, they won’t eat real food.

Hey!  Breastmilk is a “real food”.  A breastfed baby will begin to eat solid foods when he or she is ready, sometime around the 6th month.  Breastfed babies are actually more likely to be receptive to a wide variety of foods because they are exposed to all different kinds of tastes in breastmilk, as opposed to formula, which always tastes the same.

Your baby has jaundice, you need to use formula.

This is almost never the case.  Please read Dr. Newman’s article on breastfeeding and jaundice.

If you are sick, you shouldn’t breastfeed.

Actually it’s the exact opposite. Except in a few rare cases, breastfeeding your baby when you are sick will provide your baby with the defenses to fight whatever it is that made you sick in the first place.  By the time the mother has fever (or cough, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, etc) she has already given the baby the infection, since she has been infectious for several days before she even knew she was sick. The baby’s best protection against getting the infection is for the mother to continue breastfeeding. If the baby does get sick, he will be less sick if the mother continues breastfeeding.

You can’t breastfeed if you are on “X” medication.

There are very few medicines that a mother cannot take safely while breastfeeding. A very small amount of most medicines appears in the milk, but usually in such small quantities that there is no concern. If a medicine is truly of concern, there are usually equally effective, alternative medicines that are safe. The loss of benefit of breastfeeding for both the mother and the baby must be taken into account when weighing if breastfeeding should be continued

You can’t breastfeed if you’re a smoker.

For your own health, and the health of your children, you should quit smoking.  However, if you cannot quit smoking, breastfeeding becomes even more important.  All the benefits of breastfeeding still apply.  Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the negative effects of cigarette smoke on the baby’s lungs, for example. Breastfeeding confers great health benefits on both mother and baby. It would be better if the mother not smoke, but if she cannot stop or cut down, then it is better she smoke and breastfeed than smoke and formula feed.

If your baby has nausea/vomiting/diarrhea you should stop breastfeeding.

Actually the best thing for your sick baby is your breastmilk.  Breastmilk is the only fluid your baby requires when he has diarrhea and/or vomiting, except under exceptional circumstances. The push to use “oral rehydrating solutions” is mainly a push by the formula manufacturers (who also make oral rehydrating solutions) to make even more money. The baby is comforted by the breastfeeding, and the mother is comforted by the baby’s breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding babies need extra vitamin D.

Actually, all babies need vitamin D. Formula has it added at the factory. Baby is born with a liver full of vitamin D, and being outside gives the baby exposure to vitamin D from sunlight. The baby does not need a lot of outside time and does not need to be outside every day. In some circumstances ( if the mother herself was vitamin D deficient during the pregnancy) it may be prudent to supplement the baby with vitamin D.

Breastfeeding babies are Iron Deficient.

Breastmilk contains just enough iron for the baby’s needs. If the baby is full term he will get enough iron from breastmilk to last him at least the first 6 months. Formulas contain too much iron, but this quantity may be necessary to ensure the baby absorbs enough to prevent iron deficiency. The iron in formula is poorly absorbed, and most of it, the baby poops out. Generally, there is no need to add other foods to breastmilk before about 6 months of age.

You can’t have a drink if you are breastfeeding.

The real deal is you shouldn’t breastfeed if you are drunk.  You should also not abuse alcohol while breastfeeding.  Having a glass of wine with dinner or an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day?  Go for it!  There is no reason to discourage reasonable alcohol intake, prohibiting alcohol is unnecessarily restrictive to breastfeeding mothers.

You should buy a nipple shield!

I’m not sure why, but I’ve heard lots of breastfeeding women suggest a mother having difficulty breastfeeding should get a nipple shield.  Nipple shields have a very limited scope of effectiveness and should be used only under the advice and guidance of a lactation consultant.  They are not some magical cure-all and can actually create long-term problems for breastfeeding if not used correctly.

Breastfeeding ties Mama down.

This is only true when society places unnecessary restrictions on breastfeeding such as telling a mother when and where she can feed her baby, forcing her to return to work before she has time to fully establish breastfeeding, restricts her diet, etc.  In reality, a baby can be nursed anytime, anywhere.  There is no need to lug around bottles, coolers, formula, wonder where you can warm up a bottle, how to keep everything sterile.  Breastfeeding is liberating.

Give your baby a bottle of water during hot weather.

Nope.  Breastmilk provides all the water a baby needs on a hot day.  It is important to let your baby continue to feed on demand at this time, she may come to breast more frequently!  Do not give your exclusively breastfed baby water, it can actually be dangerous!

You can’t take the pill if you are nursing!

Strictly speaking, you can take the pill if you are breastfeeding.  The concern here is actually not with the baby, who will receive only miniscule amount of the hormone through your milk, it’s more how will the pill affect your supply?  The pill will decrease your supply, but for most mothers, who make more than enough, that is not a problem.  This is one of those decisions where you should weigh the risks vs benefits, but it is not a rule that you cannot take the pill while nursing.

Don’t let your baby use you as a pacifier.

Breasts are the original pacifier!  Breastfeeding is just another tool we mothers have to soothe and comfort our babies–and it’s a powerful one. Studies have shown that comfort sucking can decrease a baby’s heart rate and let him relax.  There is a positive effect on the baby’s whole physical and emotional wellbeing.  Comforting and meeting sucking needs at the breast is nature’s original design. Pacifiers (dummies, soothers) are literally a substitute for the mother when she can’t be available. Other reasons to pacify a baby primarily at the breast include superior oral-facial development, prolonged lactational amenorrhea, avoidance of nipple confusion and stimulation of an adequate milk supply to ensure higher rates of breastfeeding success.  Don’t let anyone tell you not to comfort your child, breastfeeding is more than just nutrition, it’s nurturing your child.

If you’re having surgery, you need to stop breastfeeding.

The mother can breastfeed immediately after surgery, as soon as she is up to it. The anesthesia, pain medications and antibiotics used during surgery do not require the mother to stop breastfeeeding, except in extremely rare cases.  A hospital with current policies in place regarding lactating mothers will have ways to accommodate your baby during your stay.  Any rule sin place that restrict breastfeeding are for the convenience of the staff, not the mother and baby.

It’s not possible to breastfeed twins.

Yes it is.

You can’t breastfeed triplets.

Yes you can.

Pumping is a really good way to tell how much milk you are producing.

Not at all.  Pumps are not as efficient as babies at getting your milk out.  They are a very poor indicator of how much milk your baby is getting.

You have inverted nipples, you can’t breastfeed!

Sometimes inverted or flat nipples don’t pose much of a problem, at other times you will need to work with a lactation consultant to learn some special techniques in which to breastfeed your child.  But rest assured, if you have inverted nipples, you can breastfeed–you just need the right support.  If you have inverted nipples, go see a lactation consultant (ideally at the facility you will deliver in, or somewhere near by if you are doing a homebirth) while you are still pregnant.  Don’t wait until our baby is born.

You can’t breastfeed because you had a boob job.

Most women with breast implants have no additional challenges breastfeeding.  There may be issues if your surgery was done through the nipple or areola.  Consult a lactation consultant while you are still pregnant if you have concerns, but breast augmentation is not a contraindication to breastfeeding.

You’re breasts are too small to breastfeed.

That’s silly.  Have you ever seen the breasts on a cat or a dolphin?  Not really?  Humans belong to a very exclusive club of mammals in which the females of the species have very pronounced breasts.  Breast size in no way indicates the ability of the mother to produce milk or breastfeed her child.  That’s a complete myth.

Breastfeeding is easy.

Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t come naturally to most first-time mothers.  You need lots of support and some practice.  But dont’ worry, you will get the hang of it, and once you do, it’s worlds easier than bottle feeding.

Breastfeeding is too hard.

Breastfeeding is really hard when you don’t have the right support or you get bad advice.  But really, once you get the hang of it, it’s an easy way to feed baby.  It’s always ready to go, it’s always the right temperature, and it’s always where you are.

Be careful!  You’re breastmilk can dry up just like that!

No.  It won’t.  Your production and supply is safe if you haven’t been booby-trapped into engaging in activities that will cause your supply to dry up.  The early stages of breastfeeding are the most vulnerable.  But your supply will not magically dry up overnight for no reason.  In fact, I know a mother that breastfed her daughter for only a week or so and a year later she could still express a small amount of milk.  Your supply is not in peril from some mystical force.

You can’t breastfeed because you had a breast reduction.

Tricky.  The short answer is, you can breastfeed if you’ve had a breast reduction. It is true that the surgery will decrease a mother’s original capacity to produce milk, but since most mothers produce an abundance, women can go on to breastfeed exclusively.  It is extremely important in these cases to establish breastfeeding properly from day 1 in the case of breast reduction.  Please see a lactation consultant while you are still pregnant, before you have the baby!  In the event that you cannot produce enough milk, supplementation may be necessary, but that does not mean you can’t breastfeed.  This is one of those cases where supplementation is appropriate, and with the help of a lactation consultant, you can successfully breastfeed for the full year and beyond if you wish.

Your baby is premature.  She needs to learn how to drink from a bottle first, then the breast.

This is not true.  It is based on the formula-feeding model that has been in place in the NICU for decades.  But it is not evidence based practice.  Premature infants as young as 28 weeks can go to the breast.  It is true that they will need to obtain the majority of their nutritional needs via tube feeding for the first several weeks, but there is no reason to bottle feed a premature infant instead of breastfeed.  The best thing you can do is start pumping with a double pump right away after your preemie is born.  Establish a good milk supply and give this milk to the nurses to feed your baby.  Do lots of skin-to-skin and allow the baby to attempt breastfeeding during these times.  It will take lots of practice, but you and the baby will eventually be able to breastfeed.

If you are pregnant, you can’t breastfeed.

I was told that the human body can’t sustain a pregnancy and feed a baby and that attempting to do both could result in the spontaneous abortion of the fetus.  This was in nursing school!  It is simply not true; you can continue to breastfeed while pregnant.

Check out Nestle’s website, they have lots of breastfeeding info!

Please don’t ever go to a formula website for breastfeeding information.  It is not unbiased information and remember, their main goal is to sell formula.  Think about it.

Breastfed babies are so colicky!

Breastfeeding does not cause colic.  Many, many babies that are fed formula are colicky.  No one even knows what colic is, or what causes it specifically, but if you have a breastfed baby, there are some things that you can do to try to reduce colic.  Some of the bad advice you get is likely to make colic worse or even cause it.  One important thing to remember when you breastfeed is not to time your baby.  Let your baby drink as much as they want from one breast before going to the other.  Sometimes a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance can cause a baby to become quite fussy.  As La Leche League says, “Finish the first breast first“.  Check out the links in this paragraph for many other tips on breastfeeding and the colicky baby.

There is no such thing as nipple confusion.

Oh yes there is.  Breast and bottle feeding require different oral-motor skills, and rubber nipples provide a type of “super stimulus” that babies may imprint upon instead of the softer breast. As a result, some babies develop suck confusion and apply inappropriate suckling techniques to the breast when they switch between breast and bottle.

I was given this bad advice by a very prominent, evidence-based physician about 3 days postpartum with my preemie.  We were really struggling with cup feeding my sick baby and it was stressing us out beyond belief.  She cited several articles that backed up this statement and it was with great relief that we asked the nurses for a bottle to put my expressed milk in.  I don’t blame that doctor.  I think she saw two very frazzled, worried, sleep deprived parents desperately trying to feed their tired, yellow preterm son and made a judgment call.  I did go on to successfully breastfeed my son, but it took us nearly four weeks to learn how to exclusively breastfeed after starting the bottle.

You shouldn’t breastfeed your baby if you had an X-ray.

Regular X-rays such as a chest X-ray or dental X-rays do not affect the milk or the baby and the mother may nurse without concern. Mammograms are harder to read when the mother is lactating, but can be done and the mother should not stop breastfeeding.  For radioactive scans while breastfeeding, please click the link.

If your breasts aren’t “full” there’s not enough milk.

Your body continually makes milk.  Your breasts do not need to be “full” to have enough milk.

You didn’t breastfeed for 2 or 3 days?  You breastmilk is sour.

Breastmilk is a living fluid, it is continuously being replaced within your body.  Think of it as an extension of your circulatory system, your blood.  It will not go sour in your body if you don’t breastfeed for a few days, or a few weeks.

Your nipples are bleeding!  Stop breastfeeding.

Nothing bad will happen to your baby if they drink some of your blood along with their breastmilk.  They need that breastmilk and though you may find the blood distasteful, the baby is oblivious to the social disdain for blood.

You need to pump to feed your baby with cleft palate/lip breastmilk.

You never know until you try.  Some babies do quite well, Babies with cleft lips especially.  Babies with cleft palate may not be able to latch on.  If your baby is born with a cleft lip or palate, have a lactation consultant help you immediately.  Try to breastfeed.  If it is not mechanically possible, try cup feeding your baby.  Try to avoid the bottle if you can.

Breastfeeding hurts!

Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable at the beginning.  If it really hurts, it’s quite likely the baby’s latch is incorrect.  A correct latch is very important, especially during the first days for both you and baby.  A baby can’t get enough colostrum out if latched incorrectly and you will get into a world of trouble with damaged nipples with an incorrect latch.

Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt!

Well, to be perfectly honest, for some women it does hurt–at first.  It’s not surprising, the nipples are a very sensitive part of the body, a part unaccustomed to so much constant attention.  Your nipples will toughen up as they get used breastfeeding.  It is important, however, to figure out if the soreness is a result of normal sensitivity or a problem latching.  A lactation consultant can help you determine this.

The baby should nurse on the right breast for 20 minutes then the left breast for 20 minutes.

Do not set any time limits on your baby’s nursing, this includes how long they stay at each breast.  Let the baby decide when or if it’s time to switch.

Wash your nipples before each 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 makes breastfeeding unnecessarily complicated and washes away protective oils from the nipple.

You shouldn’t continue to breastfeed if you have thrush.

Thrush.  A word that strikes fear into the hearts of nursing mothers everywhere.  It can be difficult to manage, but you should absolutely keep breastfeeding as normal during thrush.

Breastfeeding will ruin your sex-life.

Where do people come up with this stuff?  Sometimes the exhaustion that comes with being the parent of a newborn will ruin your sex-life temporarily, but breastfeeding does not ruin your sex life.  It has nothing to do with your sex-life.

It’s gross to let your partner play with your tits when you’re breastfeeding.

Many women and/or men feel an aversion to sexual play with breasts when the mother is lactating.  It’s up to you, but there is nothing wrong with your breasts performing two functions.  You kiss your baby with the same lips you kiss or pleasure your partner, you hold your baby with the hands you use to express your love for your spouse.  Your breasts feed your baby, and they can still be a source of sexual pleasure for you and your partner.  Sure, having breastmilk leak out of your breasts may not be sexy, but it’s all a matter or perspective.  And if you are looking for permission, listen up.  I give you permission to enjoy your breasts as erogenous zones while you are lactating, it is completely normal.

Breastfeeding is instinct.

Breastfeeding is natural, it is not instinctive for the mother.  Breastfeeding is a learned skill.  The baby has a sucking instinct which will bring him to the breast, but he needs practice too!

Breastfeeding comes easy.

For some mothers and babies, it’s really easy.  For many, it’s a learning curve.  But like any skill, once you’ve learned how to do it, it becomes very easy.

Breastfeeding is hard.

It can be challenging at times.  But with the right support, it is not hard.  Start attending La Leche League meetings while you are pregnant and always meet with a lactation consultant at least once during the first day postpartum.  Set up your supports, set up for success.  Like any skill, once you’ve learned how to do it, it becomes very easy.

It’s Ok to supplement.

There are only a few specific circumstances where it is OK to supplement.  You should be working closely with a lactation consultant if you find yourself in one of these unusual circumstances where supplementation has become necessary.  Please do not start supplementing your baby on the advice of your mother in law or your neighbor.  Even your doctor is not the best source.  Always consult a lactation consultant when anyone suggests you supplement.

Feeding your baby formula is just as good as breastfeeding.

Not true at all.  You will commonly hear this from mothers who formula feed.  This is natural for them to say, they look at their babies and see them for the beautiful little bundles of perfection that they are.  But the facts are formula comes with risks.  Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breastmilk. Every correction of a deficiency in formulas is advertised as an advance. Fundamentally formulas are inexact copies based on outdated and incomplete knowledge of what breastmilk is. Formulas contain no antibodies, no living cells, no enzymes, no hormones. They contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium, lead and iron than breastmilk. They contain significantly more protein than breastmilk. The proteins and fats are fundamentally different from those in breastmilk. Formulas do not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30, or from woman to woman, or from baby to baby. Your breastmilk is made as required to suit your baby. Formulas are made to suit every baby, and thus no baby. Formulas succeed only at making babies grow well, usually, but there is more to breastfeeding than getting the baby to grow quickly.

Breastfeeding makes your boobs sag.

Pregnancy & time changes your breasts, breastfeeding does not make them droopy, saggy, or deflated.

Phew!  It’s amazing anyone ever breastfeeds successfully at all!

Some trusted links for information about breastfeeding:

La Leche League


Dr. Jack Newman





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