Milk Myths Busted!

Breastfeeding moms have information flying at us from all directions, and it’s hard to separate evidence-based information from anecdotal evidence, especially when people we care about seem to speak the loudest. We know that sometimes, things work for individual people, but this does not mean a habit or practice will work for the larger community. Here, we break down several common myths about bag of breastmilkbreastfeeding:

1. MYTH: Dark Beer Boosts Supply

People think the barley and hops in a dark beer will boost a mom’s milk supply because these foods are thought to increase milk supply. But, research tells us that the alcohol content in a beer will (at best) cancel out any milk-boosting properties of the other ingredients.

Does drinking a nice beer help a mom relax and does a relaxed mom produce more milk? Maybe! Is drinking one beer every now and then going to have negative effects on a breastfeeding mother? Research says no. But we also know that regular or heavy consumption of alcohol can have negative effects, so a safe guideline is to limit consumption to 1-2 drinks per week. Make them count! Choose something yummy.

2. MYTH: Moms Who Drink Alcohol Must Pump and Dump

If you feel tipsy, you are tipsy. Even if you’ve only had half a beer–most nursing moms have abstained for about a year and aren’t out knocking ’em back with a newborn, so expect your tolerance for alcohol to be very different from before. When you’re tipsy, most likely alcohol has reached your milk, so you should not nurse your baby directly until you feel sober again.

BUT! This alcohol does not stay in your milk forever. It metabolizes out of the milk just like it does with your blood. You do not need to pump and discard your milk when you are drunk unless you are uncomfortably engorged.

3. MYTH: All Babies Can Safely Be Put On a 4-hour Feeding Schedule

You know those baby books that insist all babies should follow the EASY method or imply that it’s possible/safe to put a baby on a four-hour feeding schedule? They are not accounting for differences in human breasts OR human babies.

Some babies have fast metabolisms. I’m married to a tall, lanky, elfin man who can eat a box of pasta in one sitting and still feel hungry. His children? They metabolize food just as quickly. But enough anecdotes!

Babies eat frequently. This is normal. Can it be normal for babies to eat at 4-hour intervals? Sure, but forcing other babies into this sort of schedule is not usually possible. Babies have tiny stomachs and drink surprisingly tiny amounts of breastmilk at a time. They get hungry!

Some babies have GERD, which means they need smaller and more frequent feedings to aid digestion.

Another thing to consider is how much milk mom’s body can make/store at a time. Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, developed this wonderful graphic to demonstrate breast storage capacity, which has nothing to do with breast size. Some breasts can store 3 ounces of milk at a time. Some can only store 1. This means some moms simply have to feed their babies more times per day to make sure baby is getting enough milk to survive and thrive.

4. MYTH: Mixing Rice Into Baby’s Bottle Means More Sleep

My first son was born in the summer, and never slept more than a half hour at a time. His wails soared through the open windows all night. Thus, the old ladies on my street loved to insist I should put rice cereal into his bottle. An insecure new mom, I’d shakily say his doctor didn’t seem to think that was a good idea (plus he wasn’t drinking bottles), but now, I could confidently tell them this is not true, and it’s potentially harmful. 

First, studies show giving infants cereal does not affect length of nighttime sleep. So, if Olga’s baby slept longer with cereal, this might be because Olga’s baby was going to sleep longer anyway!

Second, pediatricians agree that ideally, human babies are exclusively fed human milk for six months. When the yentas start getting pushy, you can just tell them that doctors all around the world urge you to just keep with the boob juice.

Finally, it might be a good thing that babies don’t sleep very long or deeply. Research suggests there are “hidden benefits” or “hidden regulatory effects” to babies waking at night and that this might be important to preventing SIDS.

What breastfeeding myths have you heard circulating? Leave us a comment to help debunk them!

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