Breastfeeding Old Wives’ Tales: True or False?

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There’s a lot of confusing information out there about breastfeeding. Whether you call them old wives’ tales, fables, or myths, when you’re pregnant you’ll probably hear plenty of them repeated by well-meaning relatives or friends. You might also find a few online.

Some breastfeeding stories sound very silly and are easy to ignore. Others sound very silly — and are actually true! So how do you know the difference? To do our part, we’ve collected some common myths about breastfeeding to help you learn the truth and be a little smarter than the average old wife.

The NOT True List

Myth #1: You can’t dye your hair or eat sushi while breastfeeding.

Nope. There’s no scientific reason why you can’t change your hair color or eat sushi while breastfeeding. You can even do both at the same time! You’ll still want to avoid eating fish with high levels of mercury. And only eat sushi from trusted sources so it doesn’t make you sick. But bacteria or beauty product chemicals won’t reach your breast milk.

Myth #2: People with implants can’t breastfeed.

Not true (usually). If you’ve had breast implants, you should be able to breastfeed. The location and depth of the surgical incision may affect your breastfeeding ability. Surgery that keeps your areola intact is less likely to cause problems. Breast reduction surgery may affect your ability to breastfeed, so talk to your doctor if you’re considering it.

Myth #3: You have to drink milk to make milk.

Not true. Milk production is all about supply and demand. The more milk the baby takes from your breast, the more milk you’ll make. Although you don’t need to drink cow’s milk, or almond milk, or any kind of milk, you do need to drink plenty of water while you’re breastfeeding.

Myth #4: Exercise affects the taste of your milk.

Nope. Exercise is a healthy choice, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. While there’s no evidence that exercising affects the taste of your breast milk, some babies may be put off by the taste of dried perspiration on your skin.

Myth #5: You can’t breastfeed when you’re sick.

Not true. Even if you’re feeling under the weather, breastfeeding is safe unless you’re taking a medication that isn’t approved for use while breastfeeding. On the bright side, the antibodies and leukocytes your body produces to fight an illness can be shared through your breast milk to give your baby immunity.

Myth #6: Babies get all the milk they need in the first few minutes.

Nope. Every baby is different. Many factors can affect how much milk your baby takes each feeding. Newborns who are learning how to latch and suck may need to stay on your breast longer. Other babies may feed more quickly and be ready to do something else. To make sure your baby gets enough, let them feed for as long as they want.

Myth #7: Small breasts don’t produce enough milk for a baby. 

Not true. The amount of fatty tissue in your breasts is what determines how big they are. But it’s the glandular tissue in your breast that expands during pregnancy and produces milk. Breast size makes no difference in how much milk you can make for your little one.

Myth #8: You should wash your nipples before breastfeeding.

Nope. Babies are born already knowing your scent and sounds. Your nipples produce a substance that the baby smells and has good bacteria that helps build their healthy immune system. Don’t wash it off before feeding time.

Myth #9: Breastfeeding makes your boobs saggy.

Not true. Droopy breasts happen during pregnancy, not breastfeeding. Pregnancy hormones may cause the ligaments under your breasts to loosen and stretch. But unless you’ve gained or lost a lot of weight, your breasts should return to their pre-pregnancy size after you wean your baby.

Myth #10: You can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding.

Nope. If you’re having sex, you can get pregnant, breastfeeding or not. It is true that you’re less likely to get pregnant during the first 6 months of breastfeeding IF your period has not returned and IF you breastfeed regularly. But less likely is still more than a zero chance.

Surprising … but TRUE!

Myth #11: Cabbage leaves reduce breast swelling.

True! Cabbage leaves work on the interstitial fluid in your breasts to help reduce swelling if they are very, very full of milk. Lining your bra with clean, cool cabbage leaves for 20 minutes 3 times a day can help relieve swelling and discomfort.

Myth #12: Eating garlic makes your baby nurse more.

True! Studies have shown that eating garlic increases the flavor level of breast milk, peaking about 2 hours after you eat it. And apparently many babies love the taste of garlic in breast milk. It makes them suckle more energetically and take in more milk. Scampi, anyone?

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