Myths and Doubts About Breastfeeding

June 11, 2020
It's common for women to ask a number of questions regarding breastfeeding when talking with their doctors. So, what are the most common myths and doubts about breastfeeding?

It goes without saying that breastfeeding is the best option for our babies. However, it can be very difficult at first and things don’t often go as smoothly as we expect. A variety of issues can appear, such as chapping, engorgement, mastitis, lack of weight gain in babies, incorrect or insufficient latching, and so on. To help out, we want to look at some of the most common myths and doubts about breastfeeding that many first-time mothers have.

Most common myths and doubts about breastfeeding

Is it true that drinking beer increases milk production?

Myth (in part). This is a common recommendation. However, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that consuming beer or brewer’s yeast has any galactagogue effect. This work refers to an increase in the production of prolactin, the hormone that regulates milk production. In fact, experts believe that it’s not the alcohol itself, but rather a polysaccharide that comes from barley, that’s involved in milk production.

So, if you like beer, go for it. During breastfeeding, you can drink alcohol-free beer, for example. But, if you’re not a big beer fan, then there’s really no need to force yourself. After all, the link between drinking beer and producing more milk doesn’t really have a lot of weight.

Do some women have good quality milk while others have poor quality or watery milk?

Myth. Breastmilk is a substance that’s “biologically alive” – it changes according to the needs of each baby. In fact, its composition varies even within the same feeding. At first, breastmilk is more watery in order to quench a baby’s thirst. Then, the milk becomes more protein and, finally, more fatty. This helps fill babies and allows them to gain the weight they need. What’s more, the composition of breastmilk also varies according to the time of day.

However, in the end, each mother produces the best milk to meet her baby’s needs.

Myths and Doubts About Breastfeeding

Are women with smaller breasts or inverted nipples unable to breastfeed?

Myth. The size of a woman’s breast doesn’t determine the number of lactiferous ducts and glands that she has. Small breasts are merely an indication of less fat. So, breast size doesn’t affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed. Rather, the amount of milk a woman produces will depend on the effectiveness of the baby’s latch and the frequency of feedings.

Many woman have doubts about breastfeeding when they have inverted nipples. However, many times, the baby’s suctioning will revert the issue. Remember, babies don’t latch on to the nipple itself, but rather to a large part of the areola.

If your baby is unable to latch on or has difficulty doing so, a breastfeeding specialist or doula can help you achieve breastfeeding success.

If I get a breast reduction, will I have problems breastfeeding?

Truth (in part). Breast reductions (unlike breast augmentations), in many cases, involve the removal of a large part of the gland tissue. Often, breastfeeding is possible.

However, you may need to combine it with a certain amount of formula since this type of operation may lead to hypogalactia. It’s best to consult with a breastfeeding specialist or doula that can accompany you in the process during the first days of nursing.

Can I breastfeed if I practice sports?

Truth. There’s no medical reason why women can’t breastfeed if they practice sports. However, it’s true that intense exercise causes an accumulation of lactic acid which may change the flavor of your milk. Your baby may not like the flavor, meaning you might want to breastfeed your baby just beforehand. This will also make physical activity more comfortable for you.

Myths and Doubts About Breastfeeding

Can mothers transmit their allergies by nursing?

Myth. It’s impossible to pass your own allergies on to your baby through breastmilk. However, if you’re allergic to something, then your baby is more prone to developing the same allergy. It’s important to talk about this with your child’s pediatrician, especially when the time comes to start introducing solid and semi-solid foods. But don’t worry, breastfeeding your child will actually help to protect him or her from developing future allergies.

Pediatritian and allergist associations recommend prolonged breastfeeding as a means of protecting children against allergies.

This is only a small sample of the myths and doubts about breastfeeding that exist. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, then you likely have your own. My advice as a midwife is that you talk to a specialist about your concerns. You can talk to your own midwife, a breastfeeding specialist, or look for a breastfeeding group near where you live.