When you first set out to nurse your baby, you will get a lot of advice — some helpful and some less so. You might also find that different sources will give you completely different information! It’s true: There are lots of misconceptions out there about nursing, and it can be difficult to separate the facts from the myths.

We are here to help. Here are some of the most common breastfeeding or chestfeeding myths, debunked and backed up with facts, studies, and evidence.

1. It always hurts at the beginning

Many birthing parents experience nipple pain in the beginning when they are figuring out latching and positioning. But when a baby is well latched on the breast, it should not hurt. It’s typical for there to be some minor tugging when your baby first latches on, but this should resolve after a few seconds.

2. Your baby will automatically know what to do

Babies are born with reflexes that help them with feeding, like the rooting reflex, the sucking reflex, and the stepping reflex (this helps your baby crawl to the breast!), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

That doesn’t mean that your baby will be born knowing exactly what to do. You and your baby are learning together.

3. You’ll bond right away with your baby

Nursing requires you to hold your baby close on a regular basis. It also releases “feel good” hormones like prolactin and oxytocin that help you bond with your baby, per a 2020 research review.

But that doesn’t guarantee that all nursing parents will automatically feel bonded to their babies. Falling in love with your baby is a process, and it’s OK if it takes you a little extra time.

4. You have to wean if you become pregnant while nursing

The term “wean” refers to the process of getting your baby used to food other than breast milk. Many parents choose to wean if they become pregnant while nursing (and that’s OK!). Continuing to nurse during pregnancy is a valid choice as well.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that nursing during pregnancy is common, and as long as the pregnancy is typical and low risk, there is no reason to wean. Many people continue to nurse throughout pregnancy, and some choose to tandem nurse (nurse both babies together) after the new baby arrives.

5. You have to have a perfect diet to nurse

You don’t have to change your diet while you are breastfeeding or chestfeeding. You will make nutritious milk for your baby no matter how you eat.

You will need extra calories while nursing and will be thirstier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but you don’t have to adopt a special diet while breastfeeding.

6. It’s common not to have enough milk for your baby

Milk supply issues are real, and some nursing parents have medical, hormonal, or anatomical concerns that make producing a full milk supply difficult.

Yet most birthing parents are able to produce enough milk for their babies if they nurse frequently and ensure that their babies are well latched onto the breast.

7. You should expect to have trouble nursing

You may have heard what feels like a million stories of new parents who had trouble breastfeeding, and that does happen. But there are just as many parents who have little trouble or are able to overcome any challenges with a few tweaks. You don’t have to go into nursing assuming the worst.

8. You can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding or chestfeeding

If you are exclusively nursing on demand (including at night), you haven’t had a period yet, and your baby is under 6 months, it’s unlikely that you are fertile, per the CDC. But that’s a lot of ifs, and even these criteria aren’t foolproof. So, yes, you can get pregnant while nursing, and it’s important to take precautions if you don’t wish to become pregnant.

9. Your baby is using you as a pacifier if they want to breastfeed frequently

While some babies are OK with spacing out their feedings every 3 hours or so, many need to nurse more frequently than that, according to experts, especially in the early days. You can’t nurse a baby too much!

Not only that, but nursing isn’t just about nutrition: it’s typical for your baby to come to you for comfort as well as food, which is also a real and valid need.

10. You should wean once your baby starts solids

Most babies start solids sometime in the middle of their first year of life. But breast milk (or formula) should remain their main food staple for at least the first 12 months, the CDC says.

After 12 months, nursing can continue at the feeding parent’s discretion. Babies continue to get important nutrition and immune protection from breast milk as long as they continue to nurse.

11. You will end up with sagging breasts after breastfeeding or chestfeeding

Anyone who goes through pregnancy will notice breast changes. That, plus the natural effects of aging and weight gain are what cause sagging breasts, not nursing itself.

12. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight

Nursing is often touted as a perfect way to lose your pregnancy weight. The truth is that some people lose weight while nursing, according to 2013 research. Per 2015 research, though, others do not.

Nursing requires extra calories, and some parents even find that they gain weight. The best thing to do while nursing is to focus on good nutrition and not the number on the scale.

13. Your partner will have no role or no way to help if you breastfeed or chestfeed

Many people think nursing means that their partner will have nothing to do. But that’s not true! Yes, you are the one making and delivering milk, but your partner will have lots to do, too.

They can bring you your baby for feedings, deliver all your snacks and drinks, burp the baby, change their diaper, shush them back to sleep, rock them to sleep, soothe them when they are fussy… the list goes on and on.

14. If you can’t pump much milk, you must not have enough milk

Everyone reacts to pumping differently, and not everyone can “let down” as easily for the pump as they do while nursing. So how many ounces you pump isn’t always a good measure of how much milk you are able to produce for your baby. If your baby is growing and thriving on your milk, you have enough milk.

15. If your baby wants to nurse frequently, you don’t have enough milk or your milk isn’t fatty or filling enough

Some people assume that if their baby is “hungry all the time,” they don’t have enough milk. Again, some babies just nurse more frequently than others, according to experts. Other babies will cluster their feeds together all at once, usually in the evening.

Babies also nurse more frequently during a growth spurt or during a developmental leap. Your best gauge for whether you are making enough milk is to look at your baby. If they are peeing, growing, and meeting milestones, you are doing great.

16. You should wait longer between feedings so your breasts “fill up”

There is always more milk in your breasts, and your breasts are never fully “empty,” so it doesn’t make sense to wait until you are full to nurse. Not only that, leaving your breasts full between feedings sends the signal to your body to slow down milk production, experts say.

The ideal way to time your feedings is to feed your baby on demand. This means nursing them whenever they give the signs that they are hungry.

17. There are no benefits to breast milk after the first few months

The AAP recommends that babies be exclusively nursed for the first 6 months, then continue to be nursed until at least 12 months, even after solid foods are introduced. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that babies continue to receive breastmilk until they are at least 2 years old.

Experts recommend extended breastfeeding because breast milk continues to have vital nutritional and immunological benefits for babies, long after the first few months of life.

18. You don’t have any milk during the first few days after giving birth

Your breasts don’t start filling up and producing mature milk until a few days after your baby is born, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any milk at first.

Your body starts producing colostrum, your baby’s first milk, in the middle of pregnancy, and it’s available for your baby right after birth. Colostrum is the perfect first food for your baby, according to experts, and is full of antibodies and immunities to protect your little one.

19. You can’t take any medication while breastfeeding or chestfeeding

With a few exceptions, most medications are safe to take while nursing, per the CDC. Even when a particular medication isn’t safe, there is usually a breastfeeding-safe alternative. That means you can take meds to treat common ailments like pain and fever, as well as for more complicated medical issues.

It’s best to consult your healthcare professional before taking a medication. You can also consult LactMed, a database from the National Library of Medicine that gathers info about the safety of most common medicines and their effects on nursing.

20. You’ll spoil your baby if you nurse them too much

Babies are designed to nurse frequently (every 1 to 3 hours is typical at first) and babies naturally want to be held. There is no way you can spoil your baby by feeding them frequently. All babies outgrow the need to feed this often — and before you know it, your baby will be crawling, walking, and then running away from you as they go off to explore the world.

21. Breastfed babies don’t get sick

Nursed babies do get sick if they are exposed to viruses and other infections. That doesn’t mean that breast milk isn’t protective, though.

Breast milk decreases the risk of common childhood ailments like ear infections and stomach viruses. That’s because it isn’t just food. It also has immunological factors that protect babies from getting very sick, even if they do get exposed to a virus or infection.

22. Breastfeeding makes your baby smarter

Breast milk is a great source of nutrition and is known to protect your baby from conditions and diseases like asthma, diabetes, and obesity, even after they are done nursing, according to the Office on Women’s Health.

However, the link between breastfeeding and intelligence is not as clear-cut. Some studies, such as this one published in 2022, have found finding no statistically significant link between nursing and increased intelligence.

23. You should stop breastfeeding when you are sick

Nursing parents often think they need to stop nursing when they are not feeling well in order to protect their babies. But, actually, breast milk is super important for babies if they’ve been exposed to a virus. This is because breast milk contains antibodies that help fight infections, according to 2021 research.

Nursing while you are sick will actually make your baby less likely to catch whatever illness you have.

24. If your baby cries after nursing, they are still hungry or you don’t have enough milk

Babies cry and fuss for many reasons, and it’s not always because they are hungry. If your baby is fussy after nursing, they may need to be burped, they may need a diaper change, or they may be overstimulated.

If your baby is growing and feeding frequently, don’t assume that they are fussing because they are hungry or you aren’t producing enough milk.

25. You need to wean once your baby gets teeth

Many parents think that once their babies get teeth, nursing will suddenly become painful. But this is only the case if your baby actively clamps down on your breast.

During nursing, your nipple doesn’t make contact with their top teeth, and their bottom teeth are covered by their tongue. Many babies with teeth or who are teething do not bite while feeding, the AAP says.

26. You need to wean once you go back to work

While nursing can become more challenging once you go back to work, many nursing parents find ways to make it work. You will need to pump when you aren’t with your baby.

Yet you can reduce how much you need to pump at work by ensuring that you nurse right before you leave for work, right when you get home, and frequently during the times that you are with your baby. Most parents are able to settle into a nursing and pumping routine that works for them.

27. Breastfeeding is free

Buying formula and bottles can really add up, but it’s a myth that nursing is completely free. First of all, most parents need to purchase pumps and bottles, so that’s an expense off the bat. Add in nipple creams, nursing tops and bras, and possible lactation consultations, and costs can add up. Additionally, nursing costs time: It consumes hours upon hours of a nursing parent’s time, effort, and labor.

28. You can’t breastfeed with small breasts, large breasts, inverted nipples, flat nipples…

Small breasts can make as much milk as larger breasts. Nursing with very large breasts and flat or inverted nipples can sometimes create extra challenges, but not everyone has issues. Moreover, certain techniques can make these concerns more manageable.

29. You can’t drink coffee or alcohol while breastfeeding or chestfeeding

While you don’t want to go overboard on caffeinated beverages while nursing, experts suggest that drinking the equivalent of 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day is fine. Likewise, drinking the equivalent of 1 alcoholic beverage on an infrequent basis is not likely to be harmful to your baby, the CDC says.

You can mitigate this risk further by not breastfeeding or chestfeeding for 2 hours after you’ve consumed your drink. Note that you do not need to “pump and dump” after drinking alcohol.

30. You’ve failed if you supplement with formula while nursing

Nursing isn’t all or nothing. Many nursing parents need to supplement with formula because they are experiencing low milk supply, they aren’t able to pump enough milk while they are separated from their baby, or they just want or need to stop nursing.

The important thing to remember is that if you supplement with formula, you are not a failure in any way. Any amount of breast milk is healthy for your baby, and you are doing an amazing job. Stop nursing when it’s right for you and your baby.

Learning to separate fact from fiction when it comes to nursing is important. But even when you are armed with evidence-based information about nursing, you may encounter challenges.

In certain situations, such as the following, it makes sense to seek help:

  • if you are experiencing breast or nipple pain that isn’t solved by repositioning your baby or emptying your breasts
  • if you aren’t sure whether your baby is getting enough milk, or if your baby continues to lose weight after the first week or two after birth
  • if your baby is fussy all the time, isn’t easily soothed after feeding, seems uncomfortable, or if you have any questions at all about your baby’s health or feeding behavior

If you have concerns about or trouble with nursing, there are many professionals who can help you. Here are some ideas:

  • Discuss your concerns with your baby’s pediatrician, who can refer you to a nursing helper, if needed.
  • Find a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for help. The International Lactation Consultant Association is a good place to start and has a searchable online database of lactation consultants
  • Seek free help from your local WIC office, if eligible, or find a volunteer breastfeeding counselor through an organization like La Leche League.

There are so many breastfeeding or chestfeeding myths out there that sometimes it can be difficult to separate truth from fiction.

It’s a good idea to make sure that any nursing information you consume is backed up by reliable sources, including health organizations like the AAP and the CDC, as well as peer-reviewed studies.

If you have further questions about nursing facts and general information, you can reach out to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.