Breastfeeding Myths: Experts Set the Record Straight

There's lots of false information out there, but our experts set the record straight.
breastfeeding baby

Before my daughter was born, a friend suggested that I rub my nipples with a loofah sponge to "toughen them up" for nursing. In my desire to be a good mom, I followed her advice until my nipples were sore. Although my friend meant well, not only didn't her recommendation work, it was downright painful. In fact, a lot of the breastfeeding "tips" I got (and that you've probably heard) are bogus. Our experts uncover the truth about these popular myths--and offer the best advice for breastfeeding success.

Myth: You Need to Prep Your Breasts
During pregnancy your breasts naturally undergo changes that get them ready for breastfeeding, says Christina Smillie, M.D., a pediatrician, lactation expert, and founder of Breastfeeding Resources, in Stratford, Connecticut. Even before your baby is born, the area around your nipples will thicken and the glands in your areolas will produce oils for lubrication and protection.

Once your baby arrives and you begin breastfeeding, a surge in the hormone oxytocin makes your nipples more pliable and stretchy for your baby's mouth. If you have flat or inverted nipples, a lactation consultant can teach you techniques that will help you nurse.

Myth: It's Normal for Nursing to Hurt
Although it's common to feel discomfort at first, pain is a sign that your baby isn't latching onto your breast properly. Instead of focusing only on your nipple, she should be opening wide and pulling your nipple and breast deep into her mouth, using her jaw and tongue to massage milk out of your breast, explains Parents advisor Jane Morton, M.D., clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and a breastfeeding expert in Menlo Park, California. Keep changing positions until your baby feels safe and secure. With a little time and patience, you'll both get it right.

How to Correct Latch-On Problems
How to Correct Latch-On Problems

Myth: It Will Cause Your Breasts to Sag
In reality, droopy breasts are a result of pregnancy, because hormonal changes cause the ligaments underneath them to loosen and stretch. As you gain weight and your breasts become larger and heavier, they may begin to sag, explains Matthew R. Schulman, M.D., assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. When you first begin to nurse, your breasts may become swollen with milk (a temporary process called engorgement) and grow larger; however, they'll diminish in size once you've established a solid breastfeeding routine. After you wean your baby, your breasts will become softer and you can expect them to return to their pre-pregnancy size, unless you've gained or lost a significant amount of weight.

Myth: Foods You Eat Can Give Your Baby Gas
Breast milk receives nutrients from the bloodstream, which means that you (not your baby) digest fiber and carbs that may cause gas, says Dacia Montes, a registered lactation consultant in Oakland, California. So, unless you have a family history of food allergies, go ahead and enjoy that broccoli salad, spicy chili, or bean burrito. A small percentage of babies develop an eczema-like rash because they're sensitive to an allergen. If your baby's rash is mild, eliminate dairy--which is the most common culprit--from your diet for a few weeks and then see if his symptoms improve. Consult your pediatrician right away if his rash becomes severe, you notice blood in his stool, or he's excessively fussy.

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