Breastfeeding myths

Our peer supporters are mums who have breastfed their own babies and received formal training in breastfeeding peer support. Here are some common questions they get asked by new mums and mums-to-be.

Breastfeeding myths busted!

Breastfeeding should not hurt! Mild tenderness at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey can be normal. Most pain is likely to be due to a poor latch. Seek support with positioning and attachment as soon as possible.

You do not have to wash your nipples before or after a feed. Special glands around the areola secrete an antibacterial oil. This oil serves an important purpose to moisten and protect the nipples during breastfeeding. For this reason, it’s important for breastfeeding mums not to wash their nipples with soap. Instead, just rinse your breasts with water during your daily shower.

Exclusively breastfed babies do not need additional water as breastmilk is made up of 88% water and supplies all the fluids that your baby needs. Even in extremely hot, dry weather your baby can get all the liquids needed from your breastmilk.

Breastfeeding does not make the breasts saggy, it is pregnancy hormones that impact ligaments that hold the breasts shape.

There is no evidence that breastfeeding causes tooth decay. The nipple sits at the back of the baby’s mouth, well away from the teeth. If baby is actively sucking then he is also swallowing, so pooling breast milk in the baby’s mouth should not to be an issue.

The size of your breasts does not determine the quality or amount of breastmilk you produce.

There are a number of ways to know your baby is getting enough milk. When a baby is breastfeeding well his mouth will be wide open, bottom lip curled down, chin touching the breast and just a small gap for his nose to breathe. You will see a pause at the point of his chin after he opens to the maximum and before he closes his mouth, so that one suck is (open mouth wide > pause > close mouth type of sucking). Baby will typically breastfeed between 8-12 times over a 24 hour period. Looking at nappy output and observing responses e.g. is baby active and alert, does he have a good colour, and is baby satisfied following a feed are all good indicators that breastfeeding is going well.

Breastmilk doesn’t change much in terms of nutritional content and calories regardless of the diet of the mum. The quality or the amount of breastmilk is not affected by diet. The mother should eat a balanced diet depending on her appetite for her own health and make sure she stays hydrated.

It is very rare that a baby will need to stop breastfeeding if mum is ill. When you have a contagious illness such as a cold, flu, or other mild virus, your baby would have been exposed to the illness before you even knew you were sick. Your milk will not transmit your illness to baby, but it does have antibodies in it that are specific to your illness so if baby does get ill the antibodies will help them get better sooner.

There are very few medicines that a mother cannot take safely whilst breastfeeding. A very small amount of medicine enters the milk at such a small quantity that it does not cause any concern. Safe alternatives are usually available for medicines that have been deemed unsafe. Information on what medicines are safe can be found at the Breastfeeding Network website.