As the member of several parenting/mommy groups, I encounter breastfeeding myths all the time. Some of these misconceptions sound like common sense, which is probably why they are so prevalent or persistent. However, just because something sounds logical doesn’t mean that it’s true. The following are the ones that I’ve encountered most often:
- The baby can get the Mommy’s fatigue and stress through her breastmilk. Fatigue and stress can’t be transmitted through the milk. A tired or stressed mother can still nurse, although she would be well-advised to rest so that she can still produce an adequate amount of breastmilk.
- You can’t drink cold beverages because it might give the baby a cold. Colds are caused by viruses, not by low temperatures; therefore, it would not be transmitted by simply drinking something straight from the refrigerator. Fresh milk is always produced at body temperature if the baby nurses directly from the mother. In other words, go ahead and enjoy that occasional milk tea with pearls!
- You can’t drink coffee at all. Less than 300 mg a day or about one to two cups of coffee a day are acceptable; however, it can depend on the baby’s sensitivity to caffeine. There are some infants who get fussy with just a cup of joe, while there are others who don’t seem to mind at all. I’m lucky because all three of my kids tolerated my coffee intake very well!
- You can’t drink alcohol. The concentration of alcohol in breastmilk should be about the same as that in the mother’s blood. However, the absolute amount of alcohol that is transferred to the milk is generally low as long as the mother only takes a minimal amount (1 drink or less a day), and is not tipsy or drunk. It is also recommended to avoid nursing about 2-3 hours after drinking. With these precautions, alcohol has not been proven to be harmful. So…a glass of wine, anyone?
- The right breast gives food while the left gives water. Both breasts produce breastmilk. However, the milk produced at the start of feeding is watery, bluish, and has less fat; it is referred to as foremilk. The milk produced near the latter part of feeding is creamier, and contains more fat; this is referred to as hindmilk. In other words, the fat content of the milk is determined by how empty the breast is at the time of feeding. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are two kinds of milk, or that each breast produces a different component.
- Breastmilk has no more sustenance by the time the baby reaches her first or second year. Breastmilk never loses its nutritional and protective value; on the contrary, it changes to accommodate the needs of the baby regardless of how old he/she is. In fact, breastmilk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition.
- Formula is better than breastmilk for brain development. In fact, it’s the other way around! There is evidence that breastmilk can increase a baby’s brain growth by up to 20-30%. Breastfed babies also have better cognitive development.
- If a baby still takes a full bottle of formula even after breastfeeding, then she didn’t get enough and is still hungry.
- Breastmilk can spoil while it’s still inside the breast. Breastmilk cannot spoil while it is inside the breast. When expressed, it is always fresh. That’s because it’s constantly regenerated by the body, and otherwised reabsorbed when not used.
- Breastmilk can destroy your baby’s teeth so you should discourage night feedings. Breastmilk alone does not cause cavities. In fact, there’s some evidence that it can protect teeth. A baby who is exclusively breastfed (no other liquids or solids) would generally not develop tooth decay unless he is genetically predisposed.
What other breastfeeding myths do you know?