Breastfeeding is our biological norm, so it should come easily, right?
Well, not exactly. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the hang of.
Like with all new skills, breastfeeding can take time and patience to get it mastered.
Unfortunately, there are many factors that can make the path to mothers reaching their breastfeeding goals more difficult.
For example, there are pieces of outdated breastfeeding advice that have been passed down through generations that are still sometimes heard today.
Here are 13 common examples of outdated breastfeeding advice:
#1: If You Have Mastitis, You Need To Pump And Dump Your Milk
Some people wrongly believe that when you have mastitis, you need to pump and dump breastmilk.
But the truth is that when a mother has mastitis, her milk is safe to feed her baby, even if she has to take antibiotics for it.
Also, continuing to breastfeed from the affected breast is important to help clear up the mastitis. See our article on mastitis.
#2: You Have To Drink Milk To Make Milk
I just asked my 5 year old where in the world she thinks the Eiffel Tower is and she answered “Australia”.
The comment above makes my 5 year old’s answer seem like it was answered by a genius.
#3: Your Milk Has No Nutritional Benefit After X Months
Breastmilk continues to provide a valuable source of nutrition and immune protection regardless of how long a child continues to breastfeed.
One study showed that breastfeeding a toddler can provide:
- 29% of his daily energy needs
- 43% of his protein requirements
- 75% of his vitamin A requirements
- 60% of his vitamin C requirements
#4: You Have To Stop Breastfeeding Once Your Baby Gets Teeth
Did you know that it is possible for a baby to be born with a tooth! If this outdated piece of advice was true (which it isn’t), would this mean that such a baby couldn’t breastfeed from the very beginning?
When a baby is actively feeding, he cannot bite because his tongue covers his lower gum (and teeth). For more information about breastfeeding and biting read here.
#5: Babies Should Be Fed According To A Schedule
This piece of outdated advice meant that many from our grandmother’s generation ended up with a low supply about 6 weeks down the track.
There is wide variation in the volume of breastmilk needed by individual babies and different mothers have different storage capacities. Storage capacity refers to the amount of milk a mother can store in her breasts in between feeds.
The only way to help ensure your baby gets the volume of breastmilk he needs is to feed him when he needs to feed.
For more information about how feeding schedules can harm breastfeeding, read here.
#6: Older Babies Need More Breastmilk
While this may seem logical it is not exactly true.
Initially, the amount of breastmilk a mother makes (and her baby drinks) increases daily. Then, between one week and one month, the amount of milk a mother makes (and her baby drinks) stabilises out.
Once a baby is around 6 months and begins solids, gradually the amount of solids a baby eats increases and the amount of breastmilk a baby drinks reduces.
It is important to remember however that breastmilk for a breastfed baby (and formula for a formula fed baby) continues to be a baby’s main source of nutrition for the first year.
#7: Big Babies Need More Breastmilk Or Smaller Babies Need More Milk To Catch Up
While some bigger babies may drink more milk than some small babies, there can also be smaller babies who drink more milk than some bigger babies.
So while this may seem somewhat logical, research actually demonstrates that the volume a baby drinks doesn’t increase in relation to their weight.
Another study showed that a baby’s birth weight did not correlate with how much the baby drank.
Feeding your baby according to you own baby’s needs, helps ensure he gets what he needs.
#8: You Need To Toughen Up Your Nipples Before Your Baby Is Born
Mothers used to be advised to scrub their nipples with a washcloth for example to help ‘toughen’ their nipples up in preparation for breastfeeding. This won’t actually do anything else other than make your nipples sore.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, there is no scientific evidence to support any benefit to nipple preparation during the antenatal period – hormones in your body will naturally do all the preparation required.
#9: Your Breastfed Baby Needs Water In Hot Weather
Breastmilk provides your baby with all the water your baby needs on a hot and/or humid day.
For more information about giving water to babies, read here.
#10: Your Breasts Are Too Small To Make Enough Milk
There is no correlation between breast size and the amount of milk a mother makes.
Mothers with both small and large breasts can make plenty of milk for their baby or babies.
#11: Bottles Are Better Than Breastfeeding Because You Can See How Much Your Baby Gets
Sure, when you breastfeed you cannot see how much milk your baby drinks. Fortunately though there are ways to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.
For more information about reliable ways to tell if your baby is getting enough, read here.
#12: You Need To Wean When Returning To Work
Continuing to breastfeed when going back to work can be challenging, but many women combine both successfully.
For more information, read here.
#13: You Cannot Breastfeed With Inverted Nipples
Nipples come in all different shapes and sizes and mothers can breastfeed no matter what kind of nipples they have.
When a baby attaches to the breast, he attaches to the breast, not to the nipple. After all, it’s called breastfeeding, not nipple feeding.
Truly inverted nipples (where they are completely adhered inwards) are rare. Most nipples that appear inverted or flat actually tend to evert with some coaxing – read here for tips.
It can be tricky to know what pieces of advice are factual and which are false. Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor, La Leche League Leader or seeing a lactation consultant can help you work through questionable advice.