Breastfeeding General

Breastfeeding myths vs facts

mother breastfeeding her baby

There are quite a few wide-spread myths regarding breastfeeding, some of which unfortunately leave women with concerns and / or provide outdated advice that is more harmful than helpful. Therefore, we have put together some of the most frequent myths here and explain whether or not they are true.


Myth 1: “You need large breasts to breastfeed”


Every woman can breastfeed regardless of her cup size. It is not the size of the breast that matters, but the amount of breast tissue. Very few women really have too little breast tissue to produce enough milk for their baby. And even then, competent breastfeeding advice can help you to feed the baby as much breast milk as possible.


Myth 2: “After breastfeeding you get saggy breasts”


Not breastfeeding itself, but the hormones during pregnancy are responsible for the growth of the breasts. It can take a few months to two years after pregnancy or breastfeeding until the glandular tissue regresses and more fat is stored in the breast again. In addition to pregnancy, age and connective tissue structure have the greatest influence on the shape of your boobs.


Myth 3: “Breastfeeding needs to have a set time”


While our mothers and grandmothers were still being told to pay attention to fixed breastfeeding intervals and a nightly drinking break, insights have changed and it is now agreed that a breastfeeding rhythm may develop, but by no means has to. Today breastfeeding on-demand is considered best. That means your baby gets to feed whenever it’s hungry, regardless of the time.

It is quite normal for a baby to keep changing the intervals between feeds throughout the breastfeeding period. After all, it does not grow evenly, and before or during a developmental spurt, significantly more milk may be needed. With breastfeeding on-demand, your baby will always get exactly what it needs for its healthy development.

Also, you don’t need to be afraid of over-indulging your baby by breastfeeding on-demand. Rather, your baby learns that it can rely on its parents. It gets used to familiar people being friendly to it. This secure base gives your baby the freedom to invest its energy in growth and learning. You will be rewarded in the long term with a healthy, happy child, who usually cries less because it can feel safe and secure.


Myth 4: “Breastfeeding hurts”


Slight nipple irritation, tightness or tingling in the breasts can be normal at first, but with the right attachment technique and practice, breastfeeding is absolutely painless. If pain occurs, this is usually an indication that you and your baby may need a little more support while breastfeeding. After all, breastfeeding is a whole new experience for both of you.

If the nipple becomes sore or the breast hurts, then, for example, attachment or sucking problems, engorgement or thrush can be the cause. In this case, you can get help from your midwife or lactation consultant.


Myth 5: “Some women have ‘thin milk’ “


The breast milk of every healthy, adequately nourished (see below) woman is optimally composed for her baby. It consists of 85% water, which covers the liquid requirement. The remaining 15% contain carbohydrates, lactose, fats, proteins, calcium, iron, vitamins – everything your child needs for growth! You may have noticed that the first few drops of breast milk look a little watery when you latch on. This is quite normal: When breastfeeding, thirst-quenching milk with a lower fat content flows first. Within the first few minutes of breastfeeding, fat content increases and high-caloric milk begins to flow. If your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, the problem is more likely that he or she is not getting enough milk overall, not the quality of the milk. Please talk to your pediatrician and/or a lactation consultant.


Myth 6: “Breastfeeding is draining, therefore the nursing mother needs to eat for two”


What is much more draining than breastfeeding itself, is everyday life with a baby. Every mother, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, should get rest and support, especially in the first two months. Feel free to lie down with the baby during the day, leave the household chores behind, dare to say so if visits are too much for you, and accept the help and support that is offered. Remember, the better off you are, the better off your baby will be too.

The actual additional energy requirement from breastfeeding is around 500 kcal. That’s about the equivalent of a snack. However, nature has foreseen the additional demand and you very likely have some additional pounds from pregnancy: during breastfeeding, they often melt effortlessly.

However, since your own food forms the basis for your baby’s nutrition, it’s great if you don’t eat for two, but now pay particular attention to a healthy and balanced diet. Because what does in fact increase significantly is the need for valuable vitamins and minerals. This primarily affects vitamins from the B group (vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12, folate, niacin), the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and the minerals iron, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. Many breastfeeding women therefore benefit from targeted nutritional supplements during breastfeeding.


Myth 7: “children sleep best in bed”


However, each family gets to decide for themselves which bed exactly their baby sleeps in. A child may sleep anywhere that is safe and comfortable. During the day, for example, this can be in a baby carrier or a cradle, or after breastfeeding in mom’s arms or on dad’s tummy. Families will also find a wide variety of options at night. Some families have a cot in the master bedroom, some mothers prefer to lie down with their baby on a bed in the guest room at night. Still other parents simply take the baby  with them into their own bed.

When sleeping in the parents’ bed, make sure that not only the room itself is a non-smoking zone, but also that everyone who sleeps in the same bed does not smoke or take any other drugs, alcohol or tranquilizers. Of course, your bed should be large enough so that everyone has enough freedom of movement. It is best to place your baby next to the mother, not between the parents or next to siblings. Also make sure that your baby cannot slip its head under a blanket.

No matter where your baby sleeps, it is recommended that it sleeps without a pillow and preferably on its back. Protect it from overheating, it should not sweat. Ensure a safe sleeping environment: This includes a firm sleeping pad, secured bed sides, no crevices, no loose pillows, cords or stuffed animals.

By the way: Even if your baby sleeps in the parents’ bed for a long time, you can be sure that it will grow out of this phase just as naturally as it will eventually switch from the bobby car to the bicycle.


Myth 8: “If the mother exercises, the milk will go sour”


If you feel like it, you can engage in sports as a breastfeeding mother and then breastfeed your baby without any problems. A well-fitting sports bra that supports and does not cut in is important. Exercising very intensively before breastfeeding may increase the lactate content of the milk a bit, so that it may taste a little less sweet. However, this will neither disturb nor harm your baby.

About the author

Dr. rer. nat. Birgit Wogatzky

For many years now, biologist and nutritionist Dr Birgit Wogatzky, has been focusing on the special needs of fertility patients. For the readers of this blog, she sums up interesting novel information and developments from current research projects regarding lifestyle and nutrition of fertility patients.