MYTH: I won’t produce breast milk the first few days after birth.
Pregnant women begin producing colostrum, the baby’s first milk, in the second trimester, so “your body is ready to rock and roll as soon as you deliver,” Mulholland says. “It is liquid gold,” she says of the yellowish colostrum. “It is full of antibodies and nutrients and is just incredibly healthy.” In two to five days after birth, the woman’s regular milk comes in.
MYTH: I am not producing enough milk for my newborn.
“I hear over and over, ‘He’s hungry, he’s crying. I should give my baby a bottle because I don’t want to starve him,’” says Mulholland. But she tells them the best way to promote milk production is not to introduce formula but to frequently breastfeed, because the more you breastfeed, the more milk you’ll produce. “It’s supply and demand,” she says. Newborns should be breastfed every two to three hours — eight to 12 times in 24 hours, day and night.
To see that the baby is adequately fed, nurses monitor the infant’s weight and number of wet diapers and watch for jaundice. Mulholland tells parents that their newborn should have one wet diaper in a 24-hour period for each day of life — so two wet diapers on day two and three on day three, up to day five, and then at least six wet diapers daily. “If it’s day four and they’ve only had two diapers, they should absolutely notify their pediatrician,” she says. Some medical conditions, such as if the mother has polycystic ovarian syndrome or thyroid and glandular conditions, could cause insufficient milk production, or the baby not correctly latching on could affect feeding. A lactation consultant can assist.
MYTH: I can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding.
You can get pregnant while breastfeeding. While breastfeeding does delay the return of menstruation by producing a hormone that prevents egg production, or ovulation, using breastfeeding as birth control involves strict practices. These include nursing exclusively during the day and night (at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night) with no other food, water or liquids given to the baby, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Also, your baby must be less than 6 months old, your period can’t have returned, and you shouldn’t use a breast pump to express milk.
Mothers who don’t want to get pregnant should use a form of birth control, not breastfeeding alone as the birth control method.