Choosing to breastfeed your baby is a personal decision. And although experts agree that breast milk is the best form of nutrition you can give your baby, ultimately the decision remains the mother’s.
There are many myths about breastfeeding – the most common probably being the notion that breastfeeding will help you lose your pregnancy weight more quickly.
We rounded up nine common myths about breastfeeding:
1. ‘Breastfeeding will make me lose weight faster’
“Although losing your pregnancy weight is important for your health, breastfeeding moms must be mindful that their bodies require extra energy and nutrition to produce breast milk. Following a restrictive weight-loss diet while breastfeeding can affect breast milk production,” says dietitian and Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson Maryke Gallagher.
“Your body has a greater need for most nutrients and some of the extra energy required for breastfeeding comes from body fat stored during pregnancy, which will assist in weight loss.”
2. ‘I can eat whatever I want to while breastfeeding. I’m burning calories’
Dietitian and ADSA spokesperson Zelda Ackerman warns against thinking this way. “You simply cannot eat what you want and think that breastfeeding will make you lose excess weight.”
You need to follow a balanced and healthy diet, limiting energy-dense junk food, sweets and desserts.
Although breastfeeding helped dietitian and ADSA spokesperson Cath Day lose her pregnancy weight, she agrees with Ackerman.
“Many people assume that breastfeeding will magically melt the fat away but you still need to make healthy food choices – for you and baby – as well as start exercising, once your gynae or doctor has given you the green light, of course.”
3. ‘I must stop breastfeeding when my child has gastro’
Don’t strop breastfeeding when your baby is ill. Breastfeeding is a natural way of keeping your baby hydrated, especially when ill. Breast milk can also boost your baby’s immune system because of the immunoglobulins it contains.
4. ‘I have small breasts, so I won’t produce enough milk for my baby’
According to an article on Parent24, breast size has nothing to do with breastfeeding. In fact, the ability to produce milk depends on your breast tissue. No matter the size, breasts usually have the same number of milk-producing cells.
“The breast tissue you need to nurse a baby grows in response to pregnancy regardless of your breast size,” Judith Lauwers, a spokeswoman for the International Lactation Consultant Association, told Fit Pregnancy.
5. ‘If I breastfeed, I don’t need to use a contraceptive’
You can’t use breastfeeding as contraceptive. Health24 previously reported that your body may still be fertile from the hormones released during pregnancy and child birth. In fact, even if your period hasn’t return while breastfeeding, you could still be ovulating. Speak to your doctor about the best form of contraceptive to avoid another pregnancy.
6. ‘I don’t want to breastfeed because it will make my boobs droopy’
Breastfeeding will not affect your breasts – in fact, the damage is usually done during pregnancy.
“The breast often doubles in weight during pregnancy, whether or not you breastfeed,” Pamela Berens, MD, a board-certified lactation consultant and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, told Fit Pregnancy. “Any increase puts extra stress on the ligaments that support the breasts, and more stress equals extra sagging.”
7. ‘If I give my baby bottles of pumped milk, she won’t want my breast’
It’s perfectly natural to switch between the breast and a bottle – in fact, for most moms who return to work that is often their only option unless they work from home.
“As long as you wait until your baby has mastered breastfeeding [usually at about six weeks] before you offer her a bottle, she should be willing to switch back and forth,” Wendy Haldeman, a certified lactation consultant and co-owner of The Pump Station, told Fit Pregnancy.
8. ‘I can’t use the colostrum’
Colostrum offers valuable nutrients to the baby (it’s rich in antibodies), helps protect your baby against infection and even helps them pass their first stool.
“For the first few days after birth, a mother provides the ideal immunisation for her baby with colostrum. The amount of colostrum is small, but it is exactly what a baby needs at this time,” Health24 previously quoted Pei Ching Chuah, the Programme Coordinator for Health and Information at World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.
9. ‘If breastfeeding causes me pain, that’s normal’
Breastfeeding shouldn’t cause you pain. You need to find out why – it could simply be a sign that your baby is not latching correctly.
“We know that breastfeeding pain is common, and part of the reason why it’s common is because we’ve been teaching mothers these holds and positions for the last few decades that we’ve learned actually make it more difficult and painful,” said Nancy Mohrbacher, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, according to Huffington Post.