True or False: Debunking 9 Breastfeeding Myths

We hear them daily — breastfeeding myths abound. Unfortunately, many breastfeeding women don't question whether or not there's any truth to these common statements. Well, it's time to bust these nine myths with a little reality. 

1
You Won't Make Enough Breast Milk if Your Breasts Don't Grow During Pregnancy

Mother holding little baby on bed
Lumina/Stocksy United

No, no, no! Not being able to make enough breast milk is very rare. Only a small percentage of women who have milk supply problems say that their breasts did not change in size during pregnancy. More often than not, women with small breasts and those whose breasts do not seem to enlarge during pregnancy still produce plenty of breast milk. If you are in the minority, and not producing enough, there are many ways to boost your breast milk supply, so don't give up!

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2
You Have to Wash Your Nipples Before You Breastfeed

Breastfeeding Myths: Washing Your Breasts and Breastfeeding
You don't have to wash your nipples before you nurse your baby.. Kaz Mori/Getty Images

Not at all! Breastfeeding is different than bottle feeding for many reasons, so this myth stems from the fact that bottle nipples can harbor bacteria, and the milk can become contaminated. Putting the baby to the breast actually protects her from infection. Aside from the fact that washing your nipples before every feeding adds about 12 extra steps to your day, it will take away important oils from the nipple, which lubricate and protect the area.

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3
Don't Breastfeed if You Have Bleeding Nipples or Blood in Your Breast Milk

Breastfeeding Myths: Breastfeeding and Blood In Breast Milk
It's still safe to breastfeed if there is a little bit of blood in your breast milk.. Fuse/Getty Images

You may see blood in your baby's spit up, and blood may even show up in his bowel movements, but this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Even if your nipples are terribly painful and bleeding, it is no worse for the baby than if your nipples are sore and not bleeding. Sometimes mothers have Rusty Pipe Syndrome where there's blood in their breast milk, but they do not necessarily have any pain. This situation is OK, and it is not harmful if the baby drinks the rusty orange-pink colored breast milk. Continue to breastfeed! If it's rusty pipes, then the bleeding should stop after the first week postpartum. If it doesn't, see your doctor, but you should still keep breastfeeding.

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4
You Should Not Breastfeed if You Smoke

Breastfeeding Myths: Smoking and Breastfeeding
If you smoke, you can still breastfeed.. David McGlynn/Getty Images

It may sound like it's going against the grain, but this is not true. Is it recommended that you smoke when you're breastfeeding? Of course not. But a mom who simply cannot stop smoking can still breastfeed, since it will decrease the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on the baby's lungs. The truth is that breastfeeding provides moms and babies with excellent health benefits even if a mom smokes. Again, it's best not to smoke, but if it's nearly impossible to stop or cut down on smoking, then it is better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and formula feed.

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5
Do Not Breastfeed After You Exercise

Breastfeeding Myths: You Shouldn't Breastfeed After Exercising
How does exercise affect breastfeeding?. Paper Boat Creative/DigitalVision/Getty Images

While you may want to use this as a good excuse to skip out on exercising while you're breastfeeding, there's no validity to this at all. There is no reason that you can't breastfeed after you work out. The belief that babies refuse the breast after a mom has worked out is probably because there is a lot of salty sweat on the areola and the nipple. The taste of the salt isn't as nice as the sweet breast milk. So, all you have to do is take a shower or wipe yourself down if you see that your baby is responding in such a way. If it doesn't seem to bother your baby, you can continue with your great workouts and nursing plans!

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6
Stop Breastfeeding if You're Baby Has Diarrhea

Breastfeeding Myths: Breastfeeding And Diarrhea
Keep breastfeeding if your baby is sick.. Vanessa Davies/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, breastfeeding is the ideal "medicine" for a sick child, since there are factors within the breast milk that protect his gastrointestinal system and fight off illness. Your breast milk also provides your baby with necessary fluids to prevent dehydration. And, of course, it's a great source of comfort

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7
You Can't Breastfeed for 24 Hours After You Get a Vaccine

Breastfeeding Myths: Breastfeeding and Vaccines
How do vaccines affect breastfeeding?. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

False. If your child is healthy, there is no reason to stop breastfeeding after getting any immunization. There is absolutely zero risk to the baby. The truth is, your baby may benefit from the vaccine. However, you have to be careful if your child has an immune deficiency. If this is the case, you should not receive any vaccinations that contain a weakened live virus such as oral polio (not injectable), or measles, mumps, or rubella.

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8
There Is Not Enough Iron in Breast Milk for Your Baby

Breastfeeding Myths: Iron In Breast Milk
The iron in breast milk is more easily absorbed.. Paul Cooklin/Moment/Getty Images

Breast milk contains the perfect amount of iron for your baby. Full-term babies who are exclusively breastfed receive enough iron from breast milk to last through the first 6 months of life. It is not necessary to give other iron-rich foods to the baby before she turns 6 months. However, after 6 months, your child's iron stores will begin to drop, so it's time to start offering solid foods and adding iron to her diet.

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9
You Can Wake Up One Day and Your Breast Milk Will Be Completely Gone

Breastfeeding Myths: Losing Your Milk Supply
Can your breast milk just vanish overnight?. Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Losing all your breast milk at once is extremely rare. Your milk supply fluctuates throughout the day and some days you may feel fuller than others, but it doesn't just drop off the face of the earth overnight. Usually, it takes a while for your supply of breast milk to wane. Some women completely wean their babies and still see breast milk for a year! If you find that the amount of breast milk you're producing seems low, talk to your doctor or see a lactation consultant. These professionals can assess your situation and help you to build your milk supply back where it should be.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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