Breastfeeding Myths: Experts Set the Record Straight

More Breastfeeding Myths

Myth: Moms Who Take Antidepressants Shouldn't Breastfeed
Untreated postpartum depression can make nursing more difficult and stressful, so it's important to get help if you've been feeling blue for two or more weeks, says Stephanie Ho, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist in New York City. If you need medication, a mental-health specialist with experience in treating postpartum depression will know which antidepressants are safe to prescribe to breastfeeding moms. If you took antidepressants while you were pregnant, stick to the same medication to keep your baby's exposure to a minimum.

Myth: You Have to "Pump and Dump" After You Drink Alcohol
Rather than throw away your precious breast milk, time your glass of wine or beer wisely. After you've had a drink, it will leave your milk at the same rate that it leaves your bloodstream, explains Dr. Ho. To make sure that your milk is alcohol-free, wait at least two and a half hours before nursing again. You can also dip test strips from the drugstore into a sample of your breast milk to ensure it's untainted. Consider pumping milk ahead of time in case your baby becomes hungry while the alcohol is still in your system.

Myth: You Can't Get Pregnant While Nursing
If you are having sex, you can get pregnant, regardless of whether you're breastfeeding. However, you're less likely to conceive if you are within the first six months of breastfeeding, your period has not returned, and your baby is nursing every two to three hours, even at night. Unless you're ready for another child, talk to your doctor about your best birth-control options.

Myth: You Shouldn't Nurse if You're Sick
Continuing to breastfeed while you have a cold or the flu actually helps protect your baby from illness. The germ-fighting antibodies that your body is busy making are transferred to your baby every time she nurses. As a result, she probably won't get sick at all, or if she does, it will be a milder version of whatever is ailing you, says Dr. Smillie. Keeping up your bonding sessions, in spite of feeling rotten, can help improve your mood too.

Myth: If You Don't Nurse, You're a Bad Mom
Although breastfeeding provides significant health benefits for your baby and you, deciding not to breastfeed--or being unable to breastfeed for whatever reason--doesn't make you an unfit mother. Feed your baby a formula that you feel good about, and move on. With your love and care, your child will thrive whether he dines on breast milk, formula, or some combination of the two.

Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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