Breastfeeding True or False …


Christmas! It’s just around the corner now and along with the wonderful fun and games it can also be a time when we get questioned by well-meaning family/ friends about breastfeeding.

When will you stop? She can’t be hungry again?!

He should be sleeping through the night by now. 

You’re making a rod for your back etc. etc.

So, here is some myth busting  (or Christmas ammo – hopefully not needed – but good to be prepared)….



Breast-fed babies don’t sleep as well as formula fed babies.

True and False (ok, perhaps mostly true)

Some breast-fed babies sleep a lot and drop off easily, some don’t, and it’s the same for babies who are given infant formula.

The Facts

  • Breastfed babies in general wake more often that formula-fed babies in the first 6 weeks or so. At this time their tummies are so small and breastmilk is so perfectly designed for their rapid brain growth and development that we have evolved to feed little and often. In the early weeks, remember that your baby may not get enough nourishment if he sleeps through the night. Breastfed babies need to breastfeed at least eight to twelve times every 24 hours, usually every two to three hours. Most babies will gradually sleep for longer stretches at night, but they will continue to need night feedings for months. You may find this article about biocultural approaches to breastfeeding reassuring that this is normal.
  • It is true that breastfed babies wake more easily – even after these early days (sigh). It is thought that this is because evolutionary wise waking easily would have meant being safer from any dangers that may be lurking in a hunter-gatherer society. Some researchers have suggested this easier waking to be one of the main reasons breastfed babies are at a very low risk of SIDS.
  • It is true that older babies (over 6 months) will wake to feed more in the night if they are co-sleeping, rather than being in their own room BUT…
  • Breastfeeding mums get more sleep – even if the dad is the one doing formula night feeds! Sleep researchers have found that breastfeeding mums averaged 40-45 minutes more sleep each night than the control group. They also found that bedsharing mums and babies fell into similar sleep brainwave patterns as their babies resulting in better quality of sleep overall (Doan, Gardiner, Gay and Lee, 2007).

This overview of the research by sleep researcher, James McKenna is also reassuring

Many mothers find that keeping baby close all night makes nighttime parenting less tiring. Throughout history, babies and mothers have traditionally slept close to each other. The idea that a baby belongs all alone in a crib is a fairly recent notion. Many have found “shared sleeping” or “the family bed” a good way to meet babies’ nighttime needs with few interruptions to the parents’ sleep. Rolling over to nurse your baby and drifting peacefully back to sleep is so much easier (and warmer in the winter!) than getting out of bed, going to the crib, sitting up to breastfeed the baby, and then struggling to get both of you back to sleep. This article discusses nighttime parenting.

Some good books about sleep (available from the full circle library)

The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley Many parents feel as if there are two schools of thought for encouraging babies to sleep through the night: let the baby “cry it out,” or simply grin-and-bear-it. If you don’t believe in letting your baby cry it out, but desperately want to sleep, there is now a third option, presented in Elizabeth Pantley’sThe No-Cry Sleep Solution. There is no strict plan to follow, rather ideas that you can adapt to fit your child and your family.

NIGHTTIME PARENTING by William Sears, MD This newly revised edition includes the latest research on how sharing sleep may reduce SIDS risk. It also offers tips on safe sleep-sharing and an update on the benefits of breastfeeding at night as well as advice on other nighttime dilemmas such as how to get your baby to sleep and stay asleep; whether or not you should let your baby “cry it out;” dealing with toddlers who wake at night; and getting children to bed without a struggle.

Sleeping with your baby: A Parent’s Guide to Co-sleeping by Dr James McKenna

The book is divided into two parts – a discussion of the evidence, which is great for those parents who understand that nothing in baby rearing is black and white and who have the confidence to make their own decisions. The second part is for those parents who are feeling understandably anxious and may be at that stage in parenting where they just want someone to tell them what to do. A whole variety of situations which are not generally addressed are covered with a list of Do’s and Don’ts.


Babies need routines and should be fed every 4 hours.

False. Feeding routines can spell disaster for breastfeeding as limiting time at the breast can mean the baby will not take enough calories to grow and thrive and can also cause a mum’s milk supply to dwindle.

The Facts:

  • Breastfed babies have faster gastric emptying times than fomula-fed babies–approximately 1.5 hours versus up to 4 hours–due to the smaller size of the protein molecules in human milk. (While intake quantity is one factor in determining feeding frequency, the type of milk is equally important. Anthropologic studies of mammalian milk confirm that human babies were intended to feed frequently and have done so throughout most of history).
  • Healthy, full-term infants need to nurse every two to three hours during a 24-hour period. This means eight to twelve feedings per 24 hours. Babies need only six to eight feedings a day by eight weeks of age, five to six feedings a day by three months, and usually no more than four or five feedings a day by six months of age.
  • A breastfed baby’s frequency of feeding will vary according to the mother’s milk supply and storage capacity, as well as baby’s developmental needs. Growth spurts and illnesses can temporarily change a baby’s feeding patterns. Studies show that breastfeeding babies fed on cue will settle into a pattern that suits their own unique situation. In addition, the caloric intake of a breastfed baby increases toward the end of the feeding, so putting arbitrary limits on the frequency or duration of feedings may lead to inadequate caloric intake.
  • Daily breastfeeding patterns will vary from baby to baby and from day to day.

If well-meaning friends or relatives pressure you to “put that baby on a schedule,” think about whether the schedule truly meets your baby’s needs or if it’s meant to please other adults. This article about the biocultural aspects of breastfeeding and mothering is enlightening.

Many mothers are surprised at how quickly and easily human milk is digested (often within 90 minutes of the last feeding). Rather than watching the clock, it is recommended that a mother watch for signs that her newborn is hungry, such as the rooting reflex, chewing/sucking on hands or fingers, or crying. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, crying is a very late cue that your baby is hungry.


Most babies sleep through the night by 6 weeks old.


Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!! And… False!


The Facts (adapted from the ISIS page listed below):

  • Newborn babies have very small stomachs, and need to feed often, so they wake at least every 2-3 hours in order to do so, sometimes more often. As babies grow they are able to last slightly longer between feeds, however human milk is quickly digested, and babies commonly need to feed frequently throughout the day and night-time.
  • By the time babies are 3 months old some will sleep for a stretch of 5 hours (this is what researchers mean by “sleeping through the night”).
  • By the time they are 5 months old half of them may have started to sleep for an eight-hour stretch on some nights (which means, of course, that half of 5 month olds are not sleeping for a 5 hour stretch at night).
  • Generally, babies do not sleep all night-every night until they are close to a year old (still talking about 5 hours as sleeping through here).
  • One study investigating infant sleep duration found that 27% of babies had not regularly slept from 10pm to 6am by the age of 1 year. 13% of babies had not regularly slept through for 5 hours or more by the age of 1 year!?
  • Popular beliefs about when babies should be ‘sleeping through the night’ are based on studies conducted in the 1950s and 1960s on groups of formula-fed babies. However it is normal for babies – especially breastfed babies – to wake and feed at night throughout at least the first year.?Encouraging babies to ‘sleep through’ before they are ready to do so makes it difficult to keep on breastfeeding, and may encourage babies to develop mature sleep patterns out of sequence with their other circadian patterns such as those controlling the regulation of temperature, hormone production, and the genes that control our biological rhythms. (It is also thought that this could be why breastfed babies are at a very small risk of SIDS).


Brilliant source of info on sleep




Carrying your child often and picking them up when they want you to will make them clingy and dependant.


False. Mothers throughout history have always known, and research now confirms, that babies are happiest, healthiest, and smartest, if they are kept in close contact with their mother or another family member most of the time.

The Facts:

  • Mammals fall into 4 groups: cache, follow, nest and carry. Humans are in the last group – carry. Human newborns have evolved to expect continuous contact with their mother and 24/7 access to milk.

If all human history were represented by an hour, the last 1/100th of a second would represent the 200 years of industrialisation.  Yet we can feel we are doing something wrong if we follow our evolutionary instincts rather than the more recent predominant parenting approaches. 

  • Babies whose mothers wear them in slings are calmer and cry less. In most cultures, where babies are held almost constantly, they are typically in a quiet alert state and rarely cry for more than brief periods.
  • Slings provide a gentle way of transitioning babies from the calm environment of the womb to that of the outside world. Babies in slings continue to be rocked by their mothers’ movements and to hear their mothers’ heartbeats. This helps them to regulate their own systems.
  • Babies in slings are more receptive to learning and display enhanced visual and auditory alertness.
  • carrying facilitates bonding. When babies are held closely, the adult and the baby can see each other’s faces, leading to frequent verbal and non-verbal interaction, enhancing speech development.
  • Researchers are now confirming through scientific studies that this style of “attachment parenting” is best for babies, and their carers.


Modern formula milks are pretty much the same as breast milk.


False. Modern formulas are better than those available 50 years ago but they are still not nearly a match for breastmilk (which is why all advertising and packaging for formula has to include “this is not a breastmilk substitute”)

The Facts:

  • Breast milk contains more than 100 ingredients that the formula industry can’t duplicate. These include antibodies that protect babies from illness and help them develop their own immune systems.
  • Formula is made from cow milk so has a higher protein content and lower lactose content than human milk. It is designed for animals who need to grown a lot of body mass but not so much brain.
  • Protein and minerals such as iron are present in lower quantities in breast milk than in formula. However, in breast milk they are more completely absorbed by the baby. In formula-fed babies, the unabsorbed portions of minerals can change the balance of bacteria in the gut, which gives harmful bacteria a chance to grow. This is one reason why bottle-fed babies generally have harder and more odorous stools than breastfed babies.


Excellent breakdown of the ingredients in formula and breastmilk can be found here

This is also a great link showing the differences.



The benefits of breastmilk tail off when your baby reaches 6 months.

False.  Breastmilk continues to be beneficial to our children until the day they wean.

The Facts:

  • The composition of human milk changes to meet the changing needs of baby as he matures.
  • Even when baby is able to take solids, human milk is the primary source of nutrition during the first year.
  • Breastmilk becomes a supplement to solids during the second year.
  • Our immune systems take between two and six years to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered.
  • The World Health Organisation recommends that all babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months and then solid foods should be introduced in addition to breastmilk, with breastfeeding continuing for at least 2 years or longer.



Giving your baby solids will help them sleep through the night


False. A baby’s immature digestive system isn’t ready for solid food until some time around the middle of the first year, and solids given too early may actually cause them digestive problems.


The Facts:

  • Human milk is the only food that healthy, full-term babies need for about the first six months of life. The composition of human milk varies according to the time of day and the age of the baby, so that each mother provides the milk that meets her own baby’s unique needs. Human milk provides immunity factors for as long as the baby nurses, and many of the health benefits of breastfeeding continue well into childhood and beyond.
  • Most solid foods are lower in calories than human milk, of lower nutritional value, and can be difficult for young babies to digest. Introduced early, they can cause unpleasant reactions and even trigger allergies. These problems can be avoided by waiting until your baby is ready for solids. Some parents have found introducing solids before baby is ready to be a waste of time, energy and money.
  • Sleeping through the night means a block of 5 hours (to researchers, if not to us normal folk) not the pretty unrealistic 12 we all dream of (or would, if we could get enough sleep).


Some useful info from La Leche League about introducing solid foods…

Breastfed babies do not need to have complementary food introduced until about the middle of the first year. Before that time, you will notice some signs that your baby is changing developmentally, in preparation for beginning solids in a few months. You will notice that:

  • he becomes more sociable, playing and holding “conversations” with you during a nursing session
  • he has a growth spurt and nurses more frequently for a while
  • he imitates the chewing motions you make whilst eating — he is practicing!
  • You will know that he is really ready to start solids when:
  • he is about six months old
  • he can sit up without any support
  • he continues to be hungry despite more frequent nursing which is unrelated to illness or teething
  • he has lost the tongue-thrusting reflex and does not push solids out of his mouth
  • he can pick up things with his finger and thumb (pincer grasp)Listen to your baby! Babies with a tendency to allergies may refuse solids until later in their first year. As long as they are growing well and are happy and healthy, there is no need for concern.
  • Babies who are ready for solids can usually feed themselves. Mothers often report that they knew their babies were ready when they picked up food from a plate, chewed it, swallowed it, and wanted more.



Other myths about solids:

Big babies need to start solids earlier than 6 months. False!

Small babies need to start solids earlier than 6 months. False!


You need to eat super healthily if you are breastfeeding.

False.  Although eating healthily is best for mother and baby even malnourished mothers provide milk for their babies, which is superior to formula.

The Facts:

  • A healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins is all that a mother needs to provide the proper nutrients to produce milk.
  • You don’t need to drink milk to make milk. Calcium can be obtained from a variety of nondairy foods such as dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts and bony fish. No other mammal drinks milk to make milk.
  • Every culture has lists of foods that are “good” and “bad” for breastfeeding mothers. It happens very often that foods believed to be good in one culture are considered bad in others! In Italy, mothers are often told not to eat garlic, cauliflower, lentils and red peppers. In India most mothers eat all these things and breastfeed very happily. Actually, in parts of India they believe that garlic helps a mother to breastfeed successfully!
  • Generally, anything you are happy eating is okay for you to eat while you are breastfeeding. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If you have a family medical history of allergy, it is worth being careful about your diet and avoiding known allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If you notice that your baby reacts badly after you have eaten something, it may be best to leave that food out of your diet for a while.


You should never drink alcohol if you are breastfeeding.


Neither true or false – it is up to each individual mother to decide.


The Facts:

    • The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother drinks. When the breastfeeding mother drinks occasionally or limits her consumption to one drink or less per day, the amount of alcohol her baby receives has not been proven to be harmful.
  • Significant amounts of alcohol are secreted into breastmilk although it is not considered harmful to the infant if the amount and duration are limited. The absolute amount of alcohol transferred into milk is generally low.


  • Excess levels may lead to drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and decreased linear growth in the infant. Maternal blood alcohol levels must attain 300 mg/dl before significant side effects are reported in the infant. Reduction of letdown is apparently dose-dependent and requires alcohol consumption of 1.5 to 1.9 gm/kg body weight (6). Other studies have suggested psychomotor delay in infants of moderate drinkers (2+ drinks daily). Avoid breastfeeding during and for 2 – 3 hours after drinking alcohol.
  • In an interesting study of the effect of alcohol on milk ingestion by infants, the rate of milk consumption by infants during the 4 hours immediately after exposure to alcohol (0.3 g/kg) in 12 mothers was significantly less (7). Compensatory increases in intake were then observed during the 8 – 16 hours after exposure when mothers refrained from drinking.
  • Adult metabolism of alcohol is approximately 1 ounce in 3 hours, so mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal. Chronic or heavy consumers of alcohol should not breastfeed.

 Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D., member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, Medications and Mothers’ Milk (12th ed.)



You can’t tell how much milk a breastfed baby is having.

True, and that’s the beauty of it! No need to weigh or measure – If babies are offered to feed whenever they want to they will take the perfect amount of milk for them. And you can always keep an eye on what comes out if you’re concerned about milk supply.


The Facts:

Mums make different amounts of milk according to their baby’s needs and their own storage capacities.

11 feedings per day is average across the globe yet individual babies range from 6 to 18 feeds a day.  And they’re all normal!

These are additional important signs that indicate your baby is receiving enough milk:

  • The baby nurses frequently averaging at least 8-12 feedings per 24-hour period.
  • The baby is allowed to determine the length of the feeding, which may be 10 to 20 minutes per breast or longer.
  • Baby’s swallowing sounds are audible as he is breastfeeding.
  • The baby should gain at least 4-7 ounces per week after the fourth day of life.
  • The baby will be alert and active, appear healthy, have good color, firm skin, and will be growing in length and head circumference.

The physical act of breastfeeding is more than the quantity of milk that is supplied, as you will find once you hold your baby in your arms. Breastfeeding is warmth, nutrition, and mother’s love all rolled into one. Understanding and appreciating the signs of knowing when your baby is getting enough to eat is the one of the most important things a new mother can learn. If you have any concerns regarding your baby, they should be addressed with your health care practitioner.




Our next Full Circle meeting topic is “Introducing Solid Foods”.

Coming to a breastfeeding group near you Tuesday 6th January.  Hopefully see you there!





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