Breastfeeding myths busted!

Feeding your baby for the first time can be daunting, but if you’ve heard some scary old wives’ tales about it, don’t panic – most are nonsense!

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Breastfeeding will make my boobs saggy

Let’s face it – when you have a baby, your breasts are going to change. This is due to physical and hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy, as well the fact that your
body produces milk whether you choose to breastfeed or not.

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“Your breasts are going to change no matter what you do,” says Heather Neil, breastfeeding councilor for the NCT. “But in fact, research has shown if you breastfeed for 6 months or more, you’re more likely to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight than if you didn’t.” While your breasts will change, you might find the shape even suits you, and won’t necessarily appear ‘saggy’.

Big boobs are better for breastfeeding

Whether you’ve got a voluptuous bosom or a pert pair has no reflection on your ability to produce milk. In fact, breastfeeding has nothing at all to do with either the size or shape of your breasts, as milk is produced in your glandular tissue.

Breastfeeding is painful

“It shouldn’t be, but commonly is,” says Heather. “If you do find it hurts, it’s usually because you need to amend the way your baby is attached to your breast, or ‘latched on’. Your midwife, health visitor or a breastfeeding counsellor can help assist you with this.”

I can’t go on the pill

You can, but it has to be the progestogen-only ‘mini pill’ rather than the combined pill, which can suppress your milk supply. Ask your GP for your options if you’re looking to go on the pill while feeding.

I can’t drink alcohol whlie breastfeeding

Unlike during pregnancy, there are no official guidelines on drinking when breastfeeding. Although alcohol does get into your milk, there’s no evidence that an occasional drink (such as one or two small glasses of wine, once or twice a week) is harmful to breastfeeding or your baby.

Some women who want to avoid alcohol getting into their milk only have a drink after their main feeds, giving them a few hours before they need to breastfeed again. Also, while some woman think that after drinking, expressing and then throwing away the milk will help, this doesn’t actually get the alcohol out of your system any faster. To be on the safe side, most women avoid alcohol altogether while breastfeeding.

I can’t feed with both breast and bottle

It is possible to use bottles alongside breastfeeding, and sometimes this can be useful and convenient. “The best health outcomes are seen in babies who have nothing but breast milk for the first six months, so if you do use a bottle you may prefer to use expressed breast milk,” says Heather. “The occasional bottle won’t affect your milk supply, but regular bottles, especially of formula, are likely to reduce the amount of breast milk you make – longer gaps between breastfeeds mean less milk is made.”

Inverted nipples mean I can’t breastfeed…

“Most woman with inverted nipples are able to breastfeed,” reassures Heather. “The severity of them differs but most are more like simple dimples that can be drawn out with your hand by pressing the nipple to bring it out.” In very rare cases, nipples can be right inside the breast meaning milk can collect in the hollow and cause soreness, but only a very few women suffer from this.

…as does a C-section

Not so. You may need extra help to find a comfy position, particularly one that doesn’t hurt your incision, but it’s not a no-go at all. It’s all to do with the size of your baby, breasts and scar.

For example, if you’ve got smaller boobs and a small, low-lying scar, you might well not notice a problem or suffer soreness. Your midwife is your best bet for taking you through different positions.

I can use breastfeeding as contraception

“Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation,” says Heather. “In the first six months, if you’re breastfeeding frequently day and night and you are not having periods, you are very unlikely to become pregnant. But this is not 100 per cent guaranteed.” For peace of mind, health experts do recommend still using contraception if you’re having sex, even if you’re breastfeeding.

If I’ve had implants or a reduction, I can’t

Breast implants shouldn’t make a difference as most feature just straight inserts and don’t make incisions into your milk ducts during surgery. With a breast reduction, it depends on the op you’ve had as you may have trouble getting your milk going. “If you’re having trouble establishing a supply after breast surgery, try feeding your baby often and making sure he’s getting the milk out effectively, the same as you would if you were generally having trouble with your supply,” suggests Heather.

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For help and advice call the NCT breastfeeding line: 0300 330 0771

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