Debunking the Biggest Myths About Breast Milk & Breastfeeding

When it comes to breastfeeding, the verdict is clear, breast milk is the best option for growing babies and their nutritional needs. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, breast milk contains the optimal levels of nutrients for babies, and is easiest on their digestive systems. However, there are a number of myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding. Becoming a new mother can be incredibly stressful, and an added concern is making sure breast milk contains the optimal nutrition for babies. Mothers often ask themselves a number of questions about their breast milk, such as how their own diet or lifestyle habits impact breast milk, and what effect will breastfeeding have on their babies. 

So what are some of the most common myths, and what do breastfeeding mothers need to know? 

Myth 1: Stay Away from Spicy Foods While Breastfeeding

Many believe that breastfeeding mothers have to eat a diet of plain foods, but this simply isn’t the case. Like everyone else, it’s crucial for breastfeeding mothers to eat a balanced diet. In fact, eating well while nursing means eating a variety of healthy foods. A well-rounded diet should include daily servings of protein, calcium, iron-rich foods, vitamin C, leafy greens and fruits, to name a few key components. What exact foods a mother should eat depends on her preferences, as long as it does not irritate their baby. 

If mothers believe their diet is impacting their breast milk, and causing a negative reaction in their baby, it’s best to consult a lactation specialist or speak with their doctor to get to the root of the issue. 

Myth 2: Don’t Breastfeed After Exercising

A common misconception about breastfeeding is that exercise affects breast milk production. While it may be more comfortable for mothers to breastfeed or pump prior to exercise, there is no evidence that exercise impacts the taste of breast milk. 

Furthermore, breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t avoid exercise, as it is part of an overall healthy lifestyle. And for those who are concerned that high intensity impact training or running will be too strenuous after giving birth, there are a number of exercises such as yoga, pilates, and circuit training that may be easier to ease into. In any case, it is best to consult a doctor to see when exercise is permitted after birth.

Myth 3: Never Use Formula If You’re Breastfeeding

Many mothers are falsely told that if they are breastfeeding their babies, they can’t feed them formula as well. There are times when mothers may be unable to breastfeed if they are away from their babies, and it’s important to know that providing their babies with formula is a healthy way to supplement their babies’ diets. 

Once babies are given formula, it does not mean that they should stop breastfeeding. Mothers should resume breastfeeding their babies as soon as they are able to.  

Myth 4: You Need to Wean Your Baby If You Go Back to Work 

An added stressor for new mothers going back to the office is determining whether they’ll need to wean their babies off of breastfeeding. Fortunately, this is not the case. Mothers should familiarize themselves with the workplace policies of their countries and companies to understand their rights to take time to either breastfeed or pump during the workday. For those who are able to, some may even be able to leave work to go home and breastfeed. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant continued remote work for a number of industries, and many women have not had to leave their homes and babies during the day at all. 

Not all women have the opportunity to work from home or leave the workplace during the day, but they can find the time to pump during the day and feed their babies as soon as they return home. While their breast milk can be supplemented with formula, this does not mean they need to stop breastfeeding.

Regardless of many sources offering conflicting information on breast milk and breastfeeding, breastfeeding is still the best option for the growth and development of a baby.