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Separating Fact From Fiction For Breastfeeding Moms
Join any moms’ group—virtual or in-person—and you’ll get a whole range of experiences, philosophies, and well-intentioned advice. It can be tough to separate fact from fiction when it comes to learning how to breastfeed. We’re huge advocates for sharing mom-to-mom tips and personal stories, but some commonly held beliefs about breastfeeding aren’t backed up by facts. Here, we’ll bust some of the biggest breastfeeding 101 myths you may hear:
You can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding
Don’t gamble on this one. It is true that breast milk production can delay the return of your menstrual cycle. So if you’re exclusively breastfeeding around the clock (no supplementing with formula), your baby is under six months old, and you haven’t had a postpartum period yet (i.e. you’re practicing the lactational amenorrhea method perfectly), your chances of getting pregnant are pretty low—less than two in 100, to be exact. But if you’re not ready for another baby, it’s a good idea to use some type of birth control. The main reason? You’ll ovulate before your first postpartum period. Since it’s tough to pinpoint when that ovulation is happening (unless you’re monitoring your temperature and cervical mucus very closely), you might not know you’re in a fertile window. Also, there are a lot of factors that make this method less effective: pumping instead of nursing, your baby starting to sleep for longer stretches, introducing solid food. If you’re not ready for round two yet, play it safe!
You can’t eat spicy foods while breastfeeding
Eat what you want! Most babies are not bothered by what their moms choose to eat. (After all, think of all the healthy babies breastfeeding in countries where spicy food is ubiquitous!) Eating lots of different foods has the benefit of exposing your baby to new flavors, which can prepare them to eat a healthier, more varied diet when they’re bigger. Sure, if your baby is extra fussy, having a hard time sleeping, breaking out in a rash, or having some funky poop, take note of the foods you’ve eaten. But without these symptoms, you’re fine to eat as you please. No need for an anti-spicy breastfeeding diet.
You can’t drink alcohol while breastfeeding
Pop that cork! Very little alcohol makes its way into breast milk, so an occasional drink or two is not considered harmful. Of course, one drink can affect people differently. Keep in mind your baby’s age and weight, your weight, how your body responds to alcohol, the amount of alcohol you’re drinking, and other factors such as whether you’re eating food, how quickly you’re drinking, and your personal comfort level. A popular rule of thumb: if you’re safe to drive, then you’re probably safe to nurse or pump. Alcohol passes freely into and out of your milk. Your milk alcohol level is like your blood alcohol level, so if it’s gone from your blood, it’s gone from your milk. Maybe a note here about falling asleep nursing or co-sleeping after drinking – that is a bigger danger than alcohol passing through milk…
Breastfeeding will make your breasts bigger or saggier
Every body is different. While many moms experience larger, fuller breasts while breastfeeding, their breast size and shape may change once they wean. The reason you may see a little sagging? It’s a combination of the heavier weight of your boobs when they’re full of milk, the inevitable passage of time, and good old gravity. Your body mass index, number of pregnancies, pre-pregnancy breast size, age, and history of smoking also factor in. Remember: your body is nurturing and nourishing a little human being! Some changes are necessary to make that happen. All in all, it’s pretty amazing stuff.
Exercise will turn your milk sour
False! Research shows there is no significant amount of lactic acid found in breast milk after moderate exercise (50 to 75 percent intensity) and only a small increase in lactic acid for up to 90 minutes after exhaustive exercise (100 percent intensity). Regardless, there are no harmful effects for babies and no indications that babies will refuse post-workout milk. If your little one doesn’t like to nurse after you hit the gym, it could be something more simple, like him not liking the salty taste of sweat on your skin. We all know the benefits of exercise, so get your sweat on, stay hydrated, and enjoy those endorphins!
You can’t take any medication while breastfeeding
Talk to your doctor, call Infant Risk, or download the Mommy Meds app to see how your specific medications stack up. While most meds will make their way into your milk, many are safe to take while breastfeeding. Remember: that milk is precious, so if you have to take meds, do your research before you dumping milk you may not need to waste. Be aware that some medications can also affect your supply, like those containing pseudoephedrine, so always double-check ingredients.
Stress, fatigue and dehydration reduce milk supply
Yes, it’s important to keep your stress levels low, get enough rest and stay hydrated. But those factors actually don’t affect your milk supply as much as many people think. While stress can cause a temporary dip, your supply will typically adapt (and breastfeeding can actually help you relax!). And if lack of sleep truly hurt your milk production, any mom with a newborn baby would be in trouble. Our bodies have evolved to survive tough times. Even if you feel like you’re dragging, your milk will keep flowing.
Mom has to drink milk to make milk
Nope! Breast milk production has no connection to the cows’ milk (or any other specific beverage) that a mom drinks. In fact, if your baby has a dairy allergy or intolerance, drinking milk can cause your baby to have a very uncomfortable reaction. Eat a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and proteins and keep taking that prenatal vitamin for a well-balanced breastfeeding diet. You can get a good dose of calcium from yogurt, cheese, or many other nondairy foods, like dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and fish.
The theme that runs through many of these myth-busters? Do your research, and remember that every mom is different. While it’s important to be aware of how your choices can affect your milk (and in turn, your baby), you don’t have to completely overhaul your life. Go for a run, have a glass of wine, eat some spicy food, and feed that baby with confidence.
Contact us at Ashland Breast Pumps for more info on choosing the best breast pump for you!