Many women make the decision on whether or not to breastfeed their infants very early in their pregnancy. In fact, most choose their preferred feeding method even before they’re pregnant. Yet many myths exist about breastfeeding, and even those moms who plan to do it right from the start may doubt their own abilities in the first two weeks at home with baby.
“In my view, confidence, knowledge and support are the three most important elements moms need to be successful with breastfeeding,” says Phyllis Young, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant with The Birth and Family Center at Grand View Health. “Getting educated about breastfeeding before you give birth can help give you all three.”
Let’s look at three of the most common breastfeeding myths and misconceptions:
Myth: I’m starving my baby.
Fact: The first few days of breastfeeding are the most uncertain for many moms. They sometimes worry that their infant is feeding too much and taking in too little breastmilk. But that doesn’t mean your baby is starving.
In the first 24 hours, an infant’s stomach can only hold one teaspoon of breastmilk – which is just 5 to 7 milliliters (30 milliliters is one ounce). “On Day 1, an infant only needs to drink enough breastmilk to produce one wet diaper and one soiled diaper, and infants will typically want short, frequent feedings,” Young says. Infants will likely cry often, but crying can mean they’re hot, cold or tired, too.
By the end of the first week, mom will generally produce between 500 – 1000 milliliters of breastmilk. “The vast majority of moms will make more than enough breastmilk, but it takes three-to-five days for moms to develop that larger quantity,” Young says.
Myth: Breastfeeding should be more (or less) painful.
Fact: Many moms feel a tugging or pulling sensation at the initial latch and may experience some discomfort for the first 30 seconds of feedings over the first three days or so. But the pain should subside by the end of the first week. “If you’re still sore by day 5, 6 or 7, it’s likely the sign of some sort of physical issue for mom or baby, such as a tongue-tied baby” Young says. “But remember, every mom will have a different threshold for pain.”
Myth: Breastfeeding only helps baby in the first year.
Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then moving to a combination of solid foods and breastfeeding over the next six months. However, other health organizations worldwide recommend continuing breastfeeding for two years. “Even after a year, breastfeeding will deliver nutritional benefits and provide your baby with disease-fighting antibodies,” Young says.
Her best breastfeeding tip for anxious moms and dads: stick with it. “There will be ups and downs, which is why I encourage new moms to commit to at least two full weeks of breastfeeding,” Young says.
Get more answers to common breastfeeding questions. Attend our free Breastfeeding ABC’s webinar on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 6:30 p.m. You’ll learn the techniques needed for breastfeeding success from one of our certified lactation consultants. Register now.