When it comes to breastfeeding, everyone from your mother’s second cousin to your hairstylist will ply you with advice and opinions. Some of the “wisdom” imparted may be helpful, but chances are much of it won’t be. “There are so many myths surrounding breastfeeding that it can be hard for women to know what’s true and what’s not,” says Wendy Haldeman, R.N., M.N., a certified lactation consultant and co-owner of The Pump Station, a breastfeeding-support center in Santa Monica, Calif. To help you sort through it all, here are the truths behind some of the most common myths.
Myth #1: If you have small breasts, you won’t produce enough milk to feed your baby.
Truth: Size doesn’t matter!
“The breast tissue you need to nurse a baby grows in response to pregnancy regardless of your breast size,” says Judith Lauwers, I.B.C.L.C., a spokeswoman for the International Lactation Consultant Association. It is in this so-called functional tissue—rather than in the fatty tissue that is responsible for breast size—that the milk ducts are located. So rest assured that whether you’re an A or D cup, your breasts are capable of providing your baby with the milk she needs.
Myth #2: You won’t be able to breastfeed if you’ve had breast-augmentation or breast-reduction surgery.
Truth: Not necessarily.
“These days, implants are usually inserted near the armpit or under the breast tissue or chest muscle, which shouldn’t interfere with breastfeeding,” says Carol Huotari, I.B.C.L.C., manager of the Center for Breastfeeding Information at La Leche League International. On the other hand, if you had surgery in which the nipple was removed in order to insert the implant and then reattached, breastfeeding may be hampered, as this procedure disrupts so many nerves that milk letdown is impaired. In this case, you will likely need to supplement with formula.
Whether you will be able to breastfeed after breast-reduction surgery also depends on how the procedure was performed. “If the nipple is left partially attached during the procedure and then reattached once the unwanted breast tissue has been removed, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to breastfeed,” Huotari says.
If you have had either type of breast surgery, be sure to let your pediatrician know so she can keep a close watch on your baby’s weight gain.
Myth #3: You must eat only bland foods while breastfeeding.
Truth: Maybe, maybe not.
By the time the foods you eat have been digested and used to make breast milk, the potentially upsetting elements have been broken down and shouldn’t affect your baby at all. In other words, if you eat cabbage or broccoli, it’s unlikely that it will make your baby gassy. And if you indulge in some spicy salsa, your baby probably won’t refuse to nurse. As Haldeman of The Pump Station says: “Women in India eat really hot curry and their babies still breastfeed. And there is research that shows babies actually prefer garlicky milk.” Still, there are a few foods that do cross into breast milk and upset some babies’ stomachs, she says. Among them are dairy products, soy, peanuts, fish and shellfish.
Many breastfeeding moms swear by the wait-and-see approach: Don’t alter your diet at all and see if your baby has a problem. If she does seem fussy after you eat certain foods, experiment with your diet. “If necessary, keep a food diary, and if your baby is fussy two to 12 hours after you’ve eaten a certain food, cut it out of your diet for a while,” Huotari says.