Breastfeeding: Fact and Fiction

Pregnant and planning to breastfeed? Here are 10 facts that may surprise you:

—All drugs used to manage labor pains affect the baby’s breathing, sucking, and/or muscle tone. And the more drugs the mother gets, the more the baby gets.

—When you don’t receive drugs during labor and your baby is left undisturbed on your abdomen immediately after birth, she may scootch up, find your breast, and latch on all by herself.

—The C-section rate in the U.S. has never been higher. Over 1 in 4 women now give birth by surgical intervention, and studies show that at least one-half of C-sections are medically unnecessary. Among the complications that can result is a greater likelihood of breastfeeding difficulties.

—A disempowering birth can undermine your confidence to breastfeed, but don’t let that stop you. Many women discover that breastfeeding helps them heal from traumatic birth experiences.

—Rooming-in, where your baby stays with you in your hospital room, best facilitates breastfeeding.

—Over 95 percent of new mothers have enough milk to feed their babies. It is the perception of not having enough that causes some women to quit.

—If your baby is born prematurely, you can express your milk for him until he is strong enough to nurse. A good lactation consultant can help you.

—In-hospital supplemental feedings of formula have almost doubled in the last 10 years, a practice known to undermine nursing. A recent national survey of women’s childbearing experiences found that almost half the babies whose mothers intended to breastfeed exclusively were given supplements.

—Compared to countries in Western Europe, as well as Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. ranks highest in infant mortality, despite spending more money per capita on maternity and newborn care.

—Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not always instinctive. Learning about it before you give birth can make a big difference. And lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups can help you overcome almost any difficulties you may have.


• For more information on the birthing-breastfeeding connection, visit, the website of CIMS, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. Founded in 1994, CIMS promotes models of maternity care based on scientific evidence, and seeks to promote normal birth, improve birth outcomes, and reduce the financial costs of maternity care.

• La Leche League, an internationally recognized authority on breastfeeding with over 3,000 groups in more than 60 countries, offers a wonderful opportunity to meet other nursing mothers ( or 847-519-7730). Your local hospital or birth center may also offer support groups or have a breastfeeding peer counselor program.

• Breastfeeding: The New Mom’s #1 Resource. A collection of articles, features, and information, and a good place to learn about pumps, nursing clothing, and more. The site also has a national directory of lactation consultants, a breastfeeding answer center, many breastfeeding-related message boards, advocacy links, and a sense of humor.

• Common Sense Breastfeeding Topics. Thoughtful, insightful handouts from lactation consultant Diane Wiessinger:

BARBARA L. BEHRMANN, Ph.D. is the author of 'The Breastfeeding Café: Mothers Share the Joys, Secrets & Challenges of Nursing' (University of Michigan Press, 2005). Visit her website at