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Our Health Care Library contains articles written by members of our medical and professional health-care staff. The articles are arranged by topic. At the bottom of the page your will also find a link that takes you to additional sources of information.

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Breastfeeding: Myths and Facts

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 tremendous advantage.

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.

Myth:

Breastfeeding always hurts; I know I'll be sore.

Fact:

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.

Myth:

I have no milk. My baby isn't getting enough nutrition.

Fact:

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 milk.

Myth:

I hate to drink milk, but I'll have to drink it in order to produce it.

Fact:

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.

Myth:

If I'm going back to work in six weeks, I might as well not nurse at all.

Fact:

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.

Myth:

Breastfeeding is natural, so I should know instinctively how to do it right.

Fact:

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.

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