Breastfeeding myths busted: The lowdown on common breastfeeding misconceptions (part 1)

myth vs fact

Myth: It’s important to wash your nipples before breastfeeding.
Fact: It is not beneficial to wash your nipples prior to breastfeeding. In fact, washing can remove the lubricating, anti-bacterial oils that are secreted from the Montgomery glands. Rinsing with warm water during your daily bath is sufficient for hygiene purposes. It is recommended not to use soap on your nipples unless your health care provider or lactation consultant recommends it, as this can cause dry skin and irritation. Additionally, your unique scent helps your newborn find his way to the breast. Babies prefer mom’s to scent to any other!

Myth: You can’t breastfeed if you’re taking medications.
Fact: Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding. In rare instances when a medication is not compatible, there is often an alternative drug or treatment that is compatible. Talk to your health care provider about any medications you are taking or plan to take. If you or your physician need help finding information about whether or not a medication is compatible with breastfeeding, call the InfantRisk Center.  Alternatively, consult the print resource Medications and Mother’s Milk.

Sometimes health care providers are not aware of the resources that offer the most accurate, up-to-date information about breastfeeding and medications. Common medical resources such as the Physician’s Desk Reference do not always offer complete information about the use of medications and breastfeeding. If your health care provider tells you that you that you must wean or temporarily pump and dump in order to take a prescribed medication and you do not feel comfortable with that recommendation, you can always call the InfantRisk Center for specific information about the medication’s effect on breastfeeding and your baby, as well as other options that are more compatible with breastfeeding. You can then share that information with your health care provider or even choose to seek a second opinion. You can also do your own research with the LactMed database, and/or ask your IBCLC for help finding information about the prescribed medication and breastfeeding. She can also offer suggestions for effectively communicating with your health care provider.

Myth: You should stop breastfeeding if you get sick.
Fact: During any ordinary illness (cold, flu, mastitis, diarrhea, for example) you can continue breastfeeding. By the time you have a fever or feel sick, your baby has already been exposed to the germ as you have likely been infected for days before you feel symptoms. Your baby’s best protection against illness is continued breastfeeding. If he does get ill, the protective effects of breastmilk will help decrease the severity and duration of the illness.

Myth: Formula and breastmilk are the same.
Fact:  Formula will never be the same as breastmilk. Breastmilk is species specific, meaning it is the natural food for baby humans. It changes in composition over the course of a feeding, throughout the day, and for the entire course of breastfeeding in order to meet the baby’s needs. It is easily digested and the nutrients are readily absorbed. Breastmilk contains numerous important components that are not found in formula as they cannot be duplicated. Breastmilk is a living substance that not only provides optimal nutrition, but also protection against infection and future disease.

Myth: Many moms do not make enough milk.
Fact:  Moms who breastfeed (or express if they are unable to breastfeed directly) frequently and regularly with baby latched on well are generally able to produce enough milk to meet their baby’s needs. Breastfeeding as soon after the birth as possible and frequently thereafter helps moms to establish milk production. Shortly after birth, control of milk production occurs inside the breast. Milk building up in the breast signals the milk producing cells to slow production. The breasts being well-drained of milk signals the milk producing cells to increase production.  The more milk that is removed, the more milk is produced to replace it.

Only a small number of women (estimated <5%) cannot produce enough milk to meet all of their baby’s needs.  Sometimes medical conditions, medications, previous injury or surgery, or hormonal and/or glandular issues can affect a mother’s ability to produce milk. In these rare (and often physically and emotionally draining instances), there is almost always a way to continue breastfeeding with additional supplementation. Breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing and every drop counts!

If you are concerned about milk production issues, please contact a lactation consultant. The number one question mothers ask is if they are making enough milk. Most often, the answer is yes. When it is no, a lactation consultant can help you figure out why and help you create a plan to get your milk production to where it needs to be. You can do it!

Read more: Breastfeeding myths busted: The lowdown on common breastfeeding misconceptions (part 2)

 

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