Common Breastfeeding Myths and THE TRUTH
women do not produce enough milk.
Not true! The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. Indeed,
an overabundance of milk is common. Most babies that gain too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not
have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The usual reason that the baby does not
get the milk that is available is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. A good latch is key!
is normal for breastfeeding to hurt.
Not true! Though some tenderness during the first few days is relatively
common, this should be a temporary situation which lasts only a few days and should never be so bad that the mother dreads
nursing. Any pain that is more than mild or creates a redness, blisters, or scabs is abnormal and is almost always due to
the baby latching on poorly. Any nipple pain that is not getting better by day 3 or 4 or lasts beyond 5 days should not be
ignored. A new onset of pain when things have been going well for a while may be due to a yeast infection of the nipples.
Limiting feeding time does not prevent soreness. Once a poor latch is corrected, healing begins almost immediately.
is no (not enough) milk during the first 3 or 4 days after birth.
Not true! It often seems like that because
the baby is not latched on properly and therefore is unable to get the milk. Once the mother's milk is abundant, a baby can
latch on poorly and still may get plenty of milk. However, during the first few days, the baby who is latched on poorly cannot
get milk. This accounts for "but he's been on the breast for 2 hours and is still hungry when I take him off." By not latching
on well, the baby is unable to get the mother's first milk, called colostrum.
baby should be on the breast 20 (10, 15, 7.6) minutes on each side.
Not true! However, a distinction needs
to be made between "being on the breast" and "breastfeeding". If a baby is actually drinking for most of 15-20 minutes on
the first side, he may not want to take the second side at all. If he drinks only a minute on the first side, and then nibbles
or sleeps, and does the same on the other, no amount of time will be enough. The baby will breastfeed better and longer if
he is latched on properly. He can also be helped to breastfeed longer if the mother compresses the breast to keep the flow
of milk going, once he no longer swallows on his own.
is a good way of knowing how much milk the mother has.
Not true! How much milk can be pumped depends on many
factors, including the mother's stress level. The baby who nurses well can get much more milk than his mother can pump.
Pumping only tells you have much you can pump.
is easier to bottle feed than to breastfeed.
Not true! Or, this should not be true. However, breastfeeding
is made difficult because women often do not receive the help they should to get started properly. A poor start can indeed
make breastfeeding difficult. But a poor start can also be overcome. Breastfeeding is often more difficult at first, due to
a poor start, but usually becomes easier later. Once you get a good two weeks under your belt, it just gets easier from
is no way to know how much breast milk the baby is getting.
Not true! There is no easy way to measure how
much the baby is getting, but this does not mean that you cannot know if the baby is getting enough. The best way to know
is that the baby actually drinks and swallows at the breast for several minutes at each feeding (open--pause--close type of
suck). Other ways also help show that the baby is getting plenty. (See Handout #4 Is my Baby getting enough milk? on Dr Newman’s
with small breasts produce less milk than those with large breasts.
whose breasts do not enlarge or enlarge only a little during pregnancy, will not produce enough milk.
There are a very few women who cannot produce enough milk (though they can continue to breastfeed by supplementing
with a lactation aid). Some of these women say that their breasts did not enlarge during pregnancy. However, the vast majority
of women whose breasts do not seem to enlarge during pregnancy produce more than enough milk.
mother whose breasts do not seem full has little milk in the breast.
Not true! Breasts do not have to feel
full to produce plenty of milk. 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.
in public is not decent.
Not true! It is the humiliation and harassment of mothers who are nursing their
babies that is not decent. Women who are trying to do the best for their babies should not be forced by other people's lack
of understanding to stay home or feed their babies in public washrooms. Those who are offended need only avert their eyes.
Children will not be damaged psychologically by seeing a women breastfeeding. On the contrary, they might learn something
important, beautiful and fascinating. They might even learn that breasts are not only for selling beer. Other women who have
left their babies at home to be bottle fed when they went out might be encouraged to bring the baby with them the next time. If
you feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, practice in front of a mirror. You’ll be surprised at how little
other’s can actually see.
milk given with formula may cause problems for the baby.
Not true! Most breastfeeding mothers do not need
to use formula and when problems arise that seem to require artificial milk, often the problems can be resolved without resorting
to formula. However, when the baby may require formula, there is no reason that breast milk and formula cannot be given together. Some
moms whose babies receive formula at the daycare, still enjoy nursing at night and on the week-ends. Breastfeeding is
not an all or nothing proposition.
Breastfeeding Myths. Revised January 2000
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
May be copied and distributed without further permission.
Condensed by Amy Jahnke, MS, CD, CBE.
Visit Dr. Newman's Website by clicking on this link.