July 25, 2023

5 breastfeeding myths debunked

Tarayn Fairlie, MD, a pediatrician and lactation consultant, helps separate fact from fiction.

There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there. We're here to help.

Having a new baby can be both joyful and overwhelming.

You may get cuddles and feel a new sense of purpose. You may also face sleepless nights and round-the-clock diaper changes.

While breastfeeding, or chestfeeding, can be a wonderful bonding experience, it can also be challenging. (Both breastfeeding and chestfeeding mean feeding a baby milk from your chest.)

If you stick with it, though, feeding your baby breast milk can provide many health benefits for both you and your baby.

To help set you up for success, Tarayn Fairlie, MD, a pediatrician and international board-certified lactation consultant with Kaiser Permanente in Georgia, debunks some common myths.

Myth 1: Breastfeeding comes naturally

Babies are born knowing how to root, latch, and suck. But breastfeeding is a complex skill you and your baby will need to learn.

“It’s a bit like dancing — babies are born with rhythm, but they still have to learn the steps,” Dr. Fairlie said. “It takes patience and practice, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen right away.”

Myth 2: Breastfeeding is painful

It’s normal for your nipples to feel tender or sore at first. This usually goes away after a couple weeks.

Make sure your baby is latching on correctly. Try different positions to find the ones that are most comfortable for you.

Talk with your doctor or lactation consultant if:

  • Your pain is getting worse rather than better
  • You have pain at every feeding
  • Your nipples are cracked or irritated

“One way to soothe sore nipples is to put a little of your milk onto them and let it air dry to keep your skin healthy,” Dr. Fairlie said. “You don’t need to use nipple creams or lanolin to reduce irritation, but some people may find them helpful.”

Myth 3: Your breasts are too small (or too large) to produce milk

Breasts of all different sizes can make milk. Small breasts don’t make less milk, and large breasts don’t make more.

“No matter what the size of your breasts, the amount of milk you produce usually depends on how much your baby feeds,” Dr. Fairlie said. “The more they feed, the more milk your body will produce.”

Myth 4: Breastfeeding is what makes your breasts sag

Breasts go through many changes during pregnancy, whether or not you feed your baby breast milk. Breastfeeding isn’t the sole cause of these changes.

Age, genetics, and how many babies you’ve had can all affect the shape of your breasts.

Myth 5: It’s time to stop chestfeeding when your baby is a year old

Kaiser Permanente and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies get only breast milk for the first 6 months. When possible, babies should continue chestfeeding for 2 years and beyond, even after appropriate solid foods are introduced.

Breast milk provides a baby with ideal nutrition and supports growth and development. Breastfeeding can also help protect the parent from certain illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancers of the breast and ovaries.

Get more answers to your questions about breastfeeding.