Misconceptions over breastfeeding have prevailed for many generations. Let’s put an end to some of the common breastfeeding misconceptions.
Top Breastfeeding Misconceptions
- Formula is just as good as Breastmilk. There is simply no comparison. Not only is breastmilk superior nutritionally, but it contains all the immunological properties (live cells) from the mother that formula can never contain. This is why an estimated 8000 babies die every year in the US from receiving formula instead of breastmilk.
- Formula is Easier. Although in the early weeks it may be easier to pop a bottle in your baby’s mouth than to get the hang of breastfeeding, learning this fine art certainly pays off. Breastfeeding moms don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle. Breastfeeding moms don’t have to lug refrigerated bottles with them and baby when they leave the house. Breastmilk is always available, warm and perfectly suited to your infant. And with a little practice, you can breastfeed so discreetly no one will ever notice. Another argument that keeps some moms using formula is that breastfeeding takes more time. This is generally true in the initial weeks. But what are these moms doing with this extra time? Cleaning their house? Gardening? Or ( hopefully), nurturing their infant – which they could have done right at their own breast.
- Breastfeeding Moms Can’t Diet. This is just not true. Studies have shown that except in widespread famines, women are able to make milk for their babies. When that fails, many of their other organs have begun to shut down as well. And those babies still receving breastmilk in famines are much more likely to survive than their bottlefed cousins. We advise sensible weight loss, for any mom. Mothering is a difficult job all by itself. Drink plenty of fluids.
- Breastfed Babies Need Vitamins. Not true for healthy babies, although the case might be different for a preemie, whose iron stores never built up. The baby vitamin industry was developed entirely for formula fed babies, after it was discovered that cow’s milk (from which formula is derived), does not contain all the nutritional components of breastmilk. Vitamin D was at one time believed not to exist except in minute quantities in breastmilk. 20 years ago, it was discovered that breastmilk had plenty of vitamin D, and that the original study contained a flaw in the breastmilk separation process.
- What Mom Eats is What Baby Eats. This is both true and untrue. Some proteins from what the mother eats does pass into her milk, but studies have rarely found any connection with baby fussiness dependent on the mother’s diet. However, many moms report subsequent gassiness in their baby from foods mom eats such as broccoli or cabbage. And moms of colicky babies should be aware that in about 5% of colic cases, elimination of dairy products from the mother’s diet may reduce the colic. Also, be aware that the more mature the baby’s digestive tract is, the better able to withstand anything you eat is.
- A Nursing Mother May Not Take Medications. Most medications do pass into mother’s milk, but at rates much lower than what was passed during pregnancy. An excellent book on the subject is Tom Hales’s “Medications and Mother’s Milk”. Beware of your doctor’s opinion on the subject. If they go by their physician’s desk reference, most drugs are classed as untested on infants and therefore unsafe for nursing mothers. The AAP also has a list of safe medications. Ask your physician if the drug is AAP compatible. Most either are, or have an alternative. Some drugs which are usually contraindicated include lithium and drugs used to treat thyroid problems, though, once again, there are alternatives.
- Nursing Toddlers Cling More. This perception has no basis in fact. While some mothers do continue to nurse toddlers who seem to need more reassurance than others, nursing (or otherwise comforting and meeting your baby’s needs) tends to mature the baby at their own pace. Studies have indicated that these babies have more self confidence than their prematurely weaned peers.
- At One Year, Breastmilk Loses Valuable Nutrients. Although breastmilk composition *does* change, it changes to meet the needs of your growing toddler. Introduction of cow’s milk is not necessary and in fact may lead to weaning. Part of this perception of the one year limit came from the AAP, who had recommended that mother’s nurse for 6-12 months. Look at the latest guidelines for current recommendations.
- Nursing Mother’s Can’t Work. Nursing mothers have always worked, sometimes in and sometimes out of the home. There are many ways to combine nursing and working. A mother may have caregivers offer formula and nurse when together. A mother may also pump and provide expressed breastmilk for the caregiver to give. Or a mother may combine the two. It does sometimes happen that introductions of the bottle may spell the end of a breastfeeding relationship. You might investigate using cups instead.
- Nursing Mother’s Have Functional Breasts, Not Sexy Ones. Although a certain proportion of men find breastplay uncomfortable during lactation, it is certainly not true of all. Just as a pregnant woman is in the full flower of her reproductive feminity, a nursing woman may exult in her life- giving and life-nurturing capabilities. And hopefully, her partner will enjoy her new confidence in herself as well.
- A Little Cereal Helps Baby sleep Through the Night. Studies have shown no difference in babies given cereal or not as regards to how long a stretch they sleep. You can give this old wive’s tale a big thumb’s down, especially since early introduction of solids is associated with possible anemia and allergies.