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Debunking Breastfeeding Myths

Our friends and family have good intentions — really. But if they actually listened to some of their own suggestions, even they might question them. When it comes to breastfeeding, the people who have never done it are likely to have the most opinions, and those people may be your nearest and dearest, like your mother.

Don't get fooled into believing every tale you're told about breastfeeding; start now to develop a filter to keep out some of the nonsense you may hear.

Size is everything

Here's what you may hear: "Your breasts are way too small, you'll never make enough milk." Or, conversely, "Your breasts are too big, you'll smother the baby."

Many women have nursed their babies successfully with a size A cup bra. And besides, in the period right after delivery (when your breasts are engorged), even a double A becomes fairly well endowed!

There is no truth at all to the idea that the size of your breasts impacts your ability to produce adequate milk, or that big breasts are weapons of destruction.

Blondes don't have more fun

Here's what you may hear: "Being a redhead or a blonde makes you more susceptible to nipple pain." Blondes and redheads, because they are usually fair-skinned, are often told that they'll regret trying to breastfeed because their skin is too sensitive to nurse.

This is simply not the case. If you experience nipple discomfort, your hair color is not to blame. Instead, consider the possibility that your baby isn't latching on correctly or that you're holding her in an uncomfortable position.

Heavy breasts mean more milk

Here's what you may hear: "You can tell how much milk is in your breasts by how much they weigh." Many people will tell you this and really mean it. But what they're talking about is the engorgement that occurs within the first couple days after birth, when you experience an increased flow of blood to the breasts, and they're definitely heavier.

When engorgement subsides after a day or two, your breasts will feel and look like they weigh about 10 pounds less than they did a few days before. This has nothing to do with the amount of milk in them; your breasts are just settling down to the job of making milk.

You can't eat anything good

Here's what you may hear: "When you nurse, you have to stay away from milk and desserts and coffee and spicy foods and. . . ." If you really tried to avoid all the foods people say not to eat when nursing, you'd find yourself feeling a little deprived at the dinner table. That's not what nursing is about.

Many foods do pass through the breast milk to the baby, just as many drugs do. But you don't need to stick to a fruit and rice diet when you're nursing; just pay attention to what you eat if the baby's not a happy camper.

A crying baby must be hungry

Here's what you may hear: "Your baby cries a lot. I don't think he's getting enough milk." Many new moms hear this, especially from people who don't understand breastfeeding. Or babies.

Babies cry for many reasons. And most of the time, hunger isn't the prime suspect. Rest assured that if you're nursing every few hours for 15 to 30 minutes each time, and if your pediatrician is comfortable with your baby's weight gain, your baby is getting plenty of milk.

Sour moms make sour milk

Here's what you may hear: "If you're angry or upset, you'll sour your milk." Sheer nonsense. Unless you're practicing to be a Stepford Wife, you're going to become angry and upset at some point while you're nursing. If the baby seems to get upset after a tense feeding, it may be because she's picked up your tension, not because you've curdled your milk.

Nursing leads to sagging

Here's what you may hear: "Breastfeeding makes your breasts sag." Unfortunately, breasts sag all by themselves as you age. Whether you breastfeed or not makes no difference — even women who never get pregnant must eventually face the reality of sagging.

Public nursing is criminal

Here's what you may hear: "Don't even think about nursing in public, or you'll get arrested." If this were true, half the breastfeeding women in the United States would have been arrested by now! Women have been breastfeeding in public places for years. Some states have instituted laws that specifically exclude breastfeeding from public nudity laws.

Breastfeeding is birth control

Here's what you may hear: "You can't get pregnant while you're breastfeeding." Many women have learned, to their shock, that this isn't necessarily true. While breastfeeding may delay your first ovulation after delivery, it doesn't delay it forever, and the degree of protection against another pregnancy is directly related to how you're breastfeeding.

The best way to protect against another pregnancy is to breastfeed exclusively at least every four hours around the clock, without using any supplements or pacifiers. Doing so can be a very effective method of birth control, as effective as using birth control pills.

You can ovulate even if your periods haven't started again, especially if you're supplementing or not nursing regularly. Don't assume you're safe from using birth control because your periods haven't resumed yet!

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