Breastfeeding “Old Wives’ Tales”, Part 1

If there’s one subject that old wives love to spin their tales about, it’s breastfeeding. Simply put: you can’t believe everything you hear. So we asked Dr. Jamie Routman, an OBGYN at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, to help us separate fact from fiction in Part 1 of our Breastfeeding “Old Wives’ Tales” series.

You can’t dye your hair or eat sushi while breastfeeding.
Myth. You can dye your hair and eat sushi while breastfeeding (all at the same time if you wish!). Any bacteria or chemicals would not be excreted in breast milk.

You can’t breastfeed if you’ve had breast implants.
Myth. While breast reduction can affect the ability to breastfeed, women who have undergone breast augmentation should be able to breastfeed without difficulty as long as the nipple has not been detached or moved.

You can’t drink alcohol when you’re breastfeeding.
Myth. You can drink alcohol while breastfeeding, but I would recommend doing so sparingly. If you drink, you should do it immediately after emptying your breast so that alcohol levels are back to “zero” by the time your next feeding occurs, which should be at least 2 hours after your last drink. Essentially, if your blood still his alcohol in it, your breast milk will too. If your breast does contain alcohol at the time of feeding, this appears to decrease neonatal milk intake, alters neonatal sleep-wake cycles, and can result in a delay in motor development at one year of age.

Harmful chemicals in beauty products like self-tanners and nail polish can be harmful to your baby during breastfeeding.
Myth. As long as these things are well dried on the skin surface, your baby should be safe. These substances are not excreted in breast milk.

You shouldn’t introduce a bottle until you’re ready to quit breastfeeding altogether.
Myth. Many mothers, either because of a tongue-tied baby, trouble with latch, or simply having to return to work, are not able to exclusively nurse baby at the breast. Therefore, they will pump and feed baby with the bottle. Many babies switch between bottle and breast without difficulty.

You can stimulate a greater supply of milk by eating certain foods. I’ve heard things like oatmeal, walnuts, red wine, and even beer can do it.
Fact. Daily oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, alfalfa, fennel, as well as garlic and ginger (in moderation) are known galactagogues. Plus, many cultures have their own remedies they’ve discovered over time—and if it doesn’t hurt and may help, why not try it? But specifically on the subject of alcohol, see my previous answer. There are also herbal teas and remedies that you can ask your OBGYN or Pediatrician about. However, the most important thing you can do to ensure a healthy milk supply is that you empty the breast every 2-3 hours. This will usually solve any problems of milk supply.

Thanks to Dr. Routman for helping us clear the air on some of these common breastfeeding myths. Be sure to check out Part 2, when we’ll tackle even more. What are some of the craziest myths you’ve heard? Talk to us on Facebook!

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