Breastfeeding: Myths and Facts
Breastfeeding: Myths and Facts by Sue Brower, R.N.
Mothers who choose to breastfeed are giving their babies the best possible
start in life. Breast milk not only provides perfect nutrition, but the
antibodies in a mother's breast milk build her baby's immunity against illness.
Even mothers who plan to breastfeed for only a short while give their infants a
In spite of the increasing body of research about the important benefits of
breast-feeding, a number of myths persist that worry some expectant mothers.
Breastfeeding always hurts; I know I'll be sore.
Breastfeeding should not hurt. Pain usually indicates that the baby is not
"latched on" properly. It is crucial that the mother learn how to
correct this immediately, as even one feeding with the baby latched on
improperly can cause nipple damage. In addition, when improperly latched,
babies do not get very much milk, so they eat more often, causing more damage -
a vicious cycle that often results in the mom giving up on breast-feeding. This
is almost always a preventable situation.
I have no milk. My baby isn't getting enough nutrition.
For the first day or two after birth, mothers produce colostrum.
This sticky, yellowish fluid is small in amount but chock-full of protein,
calories, and important antibodies. Colostrum is rich
and nutritious, and that is all most babies need until the milk comes in. We
encourage mothers to nurse within the first hour of birth while the baby is
alert, which is usually the easiest time and also facilitates the production of
I hate to drink milk, but I'll have to drink it in order to produce it.
Breastfeeding mothers who don't like milk don't have to drink it. They need
to drink plenty of fluid (avoiding caffeine and alcohol) because nursing will
make them thirsty. A diet high in calcium is also required to help prevent
osteoporosis later in life.
If I'm going back to work in six weeks, I might as well not nurse at all.
Going back to work doesn't mean you can't continue to nurse. Many women
combine a successful career with breastfeeding. You simply need to work out an
arrangement that works well for you and your baby. Some women continue
breastfeeding exclusively by taking a 20-minute break at work about every four
hours to pump their breasts. This way the baby can be given pumped breast milk
when mom is away. Other mothers who return to work combine nursing with formula
feeding: during the day, the caregiver gives the baby formula,
and mom nurses when she returns home. Mothers who decide to wean to formula
entirely upon return to work have given their babies advantages from their
mother's milk they can't get anywhere else.
Breastfeeding is natural, so I should know instinctively how to do it right.
We used to have our extended families around us as role models and teachers,
but that's not as common these days. Many of us live far away from mothers,
aunts, and sisters. Also, many of today's women of childbearing age were born
when bottle feeding was seen as the preferred way to feed babies. The result is
that some of our mothers didn't have experience breast-feeding either.
The good news is that there are caring, supportive professionals who can help
expectant and new mothers learn proper breast-feeding techniques. Even if you
had an unsuccessful breast-feeding experience with your first baby, the support
of a lactation specialist can make all the difference the next time. At Cayuga Medical
Center, the obstetric
nurses provide ongoing help to new mothers, right from birth. In addition, our
lactation consultants offer a workshop once a month to new and expectant
parents, and are available for one-on-one help throughout the hospital stay, as
well as afterward, should questions or difficulties arise.
Sue Brower, R.N. is a clinical instructor in the Maternal-Child Health
Unit at Cayuga Medical Center.
She pursued her nursing career full-time while breast-feeding each of her two
children through their first fourteen months.