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7 Myths About Breastfeeding

Here's the truth behind some common myths about nursing a baby.

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Use it for one or two feedings a day. Your baby will develop the skills necessary to bottle feed without losing the ability to feed at the breast. Use your own milk when trying the bottle, and hold your baby close to your body to cuddle. It's the bonding time that matters almost as much as the actual feeding.

Myth # 5: Breastfeeding changes the shape and size of your breast, or reduces sensitivity.

Fact: While pregnancy does somewhat alter the look and feel of your breasts, experts say breastfeeding does not cause any changes beyond that. "This is all pretty much old wives' tales."

In fact, "breastfeeding can actually help protect your breasts," says lactation consultant Linda M. Hanna, IBCLC, with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Indeed, studies show that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer later in life.

Myth # 6: Never wake a sleeping baby to breastfeed.

Fact: Most of the time your baby will wake you -- and be ready to eat -- every two-and-a-half to three hours. However, your baby may feed vigorously for two or three hours -- known as "cluster feedings" -- then sleep a longer than usual.

"It's okay to let them sleep a little longer than usual, but you should never have more than one four-and-a-half-hour period of sleeping per day," says Sternum. If your baby is regularly sleeping through feeding time, wake baby when it's time to eat. It's important for your baby to feed on schedule, and you need to express milk on schedule to keep up a good supply.

Myth # 7:Breastfeeding prevents you from getting pregnant.

Fact: Judging by the number of families with babies born 10 months apart, it's clear that breastfeeding isn't guaranteed birth control. However, experts do believe breastfeeding is 98% effective -- similar to other forms of birth control. La Leche League International experts say hormones involved in breastfeeding prevent ovulation, thereby blocking your ability to conceive for up to 14 or 15 months following delivery.

How do you know if you need additional birth control? As soon as you begin having a menstrual cycle, you can get pregnant again. For some women, Hanna says, this can be as early as six months after giving birth.

If you don't want another baby right away, talk to your doctor about using low-dose birth control pills several months after you start breastfeeding. They are safe for you and your baby, Hanna says. Or your partner can use a condom and spermicide. Any chemicals that enter your body will make their way to your breast milk, so choose only spermicides that are safe for nursing mothers.

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