Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional. But I am a voracious reader, and a stickler for verification, ie. reliable studies and research which either confirm or disprove the breastfeeding myths I’m talking about today. I’m also a natural-term breastfeeder (check out my video on the subject below!). This post is intended to be for informational purposes, and where relevant I’ve linked to sources which support my claims about nursing facts and how to breastfeed. I also aim to provide trusted breastfeeding advice and tips, and answer the complex question – how does breastfeeding work?

Breastfeeding Stigma

Have you noticed how there’s a real stigma attached to breastfeeding?

I’m not talking about the minority who are so offended by the mother naturally feeding her child that they tut loudly and avert their disgusted eyes. In fact, I’m not necessarily talking about those who have any kind of problem with it at all.

Sometimes it’s the very women who are pro breastfeeding who cause and/or breed this insidious blight on society.

The stigma has sprung up between (some) breastfeeders and (some) bottle feeders. And it has left us in the ridiculous position of being unable to speak frankly about nourishing our children, for fear of causing offence to someone, somewhere, somehow.

Are you starting your breastfeeding journey and need some support? Here's everything you need to know about the myths surrounding nursing, plus lots of information. Click for tips and advice. #breastfeeding #breastfeedingtips #nursingsupport #breastfeedingsupport #normalisebreastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding

Well, I may be British, but I’m not typically so – impersonating the ostrich is not exactly my forte. If something needs saying, I just can’t help myself. Some people who think they know me would describe me as thriving on confrontation. But they’re wrong; I loathe it as much as the next person. In fact, I suffer with social anxiety. I far prefer harmony to conflict.

But there’s one thing I despise even more than discord: bitterness.

So if I think an issue is destructive enough, I will confront it. (I may be cringing inside, but I’ll still do it.)

Breastfeeding Issues

I’ve previously written about breastfeeding and alcohol – because the guidelines seem to be biased towards those who cannot or will not regulate their own drinking, which I find patronising. And whilst I in no way condone drinking to excess particularly for breastfeeding mothers, I’m wildly frustrated about the lack of accurate information in the public consciousness. It is available if you go searching, but people tend to repeat what they’ve heard over and over again; and so the lore is reinforced and perpetuated generation to generation.  This is not helpful, and I like to be helpful.

I’ve also talked about breastfeeding rates; the lack of support from doctors when it comes to breastfeeding in general and particularly with reference to allergies; how some people think women who choose to breastfeed are martyrs (and why I think they’re right, in a way!); and my feelings about natural-term breastfeeding:

But one of my greatest concerns about breastfeeding is that there’s not enough discussion about breastfeeding before the baby arrives.

I have a lot to say about breastfeeding (so much so I’ve actually written an ebook on the subject). I’m passionate about it, and I’ve become quite the advocate. I’d like to see all women have the best possible chance to successfully breastfeed, should they wish to do so. And to this end, there are several misconceptions I’d like to see publicly challenged and rejected.

How Does Breastfeeding Work?

Personally, I attended a workshop while I was pregnant. I was clueless and it helped me appreciate how much I had to learn. I’ve since also read lots on the subject to gain a greater knowledge and understanding of the physiology.

I had a strong desire to feed my baby myself, though I knew little about what that involved – or even why, specifically, it was the best option. I simply knew it was natural, and I trust nature to manufacture optimal sustenance for our offspring. On a personal level, following a traumatic delivery which was about as far from my ideal scenario as it could have been, I was determined to at least have this.

My Breastfeeding Journey

Following our daughter’s arrival, I was fortunate enough to have fantastic support from Feeding Together; I credit them with teaching me a bit about the mechanics of breastfeeding, as well as correct latch technique. This assistance involved my breast being manhandled into Pixie’s mouth, and it was about as dignified as the process of giving birth. That may sound somewhat rough – and it was*. It was also necessary.

*For me, not Pixie – never push the baby’s head to the nipple. See here for the correct manoeuvre.

Breastfeeding Advice - Baby Breastfeeding
How does breastfeeding work? It’s a complex question!

Our First Breastfeeding Problems

Alas, following just a few hours at home, we were admitted back to hospital for several nights for Pixie to be tube fed. Pixie was so little and lethargic I couldn’t wake her to feed and she’d become dehydrated. I may sound nonchalant, but trust me when I say this was ten times more harrowing than her traumatic birth.

It was necessary to supplement with formula at this point; I already felt like a failure.

During this time, I had access to some fantastic equipment and was expressing every two to three hours day and night – or at least attempting to. I was resolute. And as my precious Pixie grew stronger and her tube was removed, I was able to resume breastfeeding.

However, while on this ward (not the labour recovery ward, since we’d left and returned), the nursing staff were dogmatic in trying to persuade me to try our daughter with a bottle. The main reasons were because she was still too weak to breastfeed and the staff didn’t have the time to cup feed her (and I wasn’t allowed to!). I think this is pretty poor, but probably very common. I stood my ground and stubbornly refused – and we’ve never looked back.

Breastfeeding Support – It Does Exist!

After we left hospital for the second time, I had a fantastic lady from Families and Babies out to visit us at home; she was also in regular contact via text message to ensure I was happy with our progress.

Breastfeeding Myths

It wasn’t all straightforward though – Pixie was quite little at birth, only 5lb 4oz, and that meant her mouth was too tiny to properly latch.

The correct breastfeeding technique requires a large portion of the areola and breast tissue to be held in the baby’s mouth along with the nipple itself; with a very small mouth, this is very difficult to achieve and inevitably leads to problems.

The pain of cracked and bleeding nipples is not to be underestimated, and I fully understand and sympathise with those who grudgingly turn to the bottle at this point (not a euphemism).

Of all the above, there was one key reason I was a stronger candidate to successfully breastfeed than many of my peers who planned to breastfeed, yet had made an early decision to go with the flow. It wasn’t the fact that I visited the workshop; it wasn’t the ladies at Feeding Together or FAB.

It was my absolute resolve that I was going to do it: it wasn’t painless, it wasn’t a perfect transition – but I persisted.

That’s not to undermine the efforts of those those who do not continue to nurse after encountering breastfeeding difficulties. My point is merely that I was a very good candidate for giving up, yet I refused. Nobody would have blamed me, yet I refused.

How Does Breastfeeding Work?

All Women Deserve Access to Breastfeeding Support

Women have many and varied a reason for choosing to bottle feed – and that’s okay. Though I believe breast is best, I don’t judge those who make a different choice.

If women make an educated decision not to breastfeed, then I applaud them for being empowered to make that informed choice. If, however, they mistakenly believe they can’t; if a health professional dissuades them from continuing for a spurious reason; if they don’t believe they have enough supply to satisfy their infant – these are the inaccuracies I hope to address and the propaganda I hope to disprove.

I’ve heard many friends say that though they’d ideally like to breastfeed, they’re not going to put undue pressure on themselves. Of utmost importance – of course – is the wellbeing of both mother and baby. And so, if breastfeeding is creating a great deal of stress for either participant, I completely agree that the wiser option is to stop.

However, I also think it’s crucial that new mums appreciate this reality:

Breastfeeding is a skill.

And just like with any other skill, to become adept at it (usually) requires coaching from a professional; support from peers; practice; and patience.

Breastfeeding Myths

Breastfeeding Myths

In other words, there’s a fine line between being sensible, and setting oneself up to fail through a lack of education or determination. I don’t pretend striking that balance is easy. But knowledge is power, so I’d like to dispel some breastfeeding myths…

1. Low Milk Supply Common

I’m always so saddened when I hear of women encouraged to end breastfeeding because of low reserves. The term ‘hungry baby’ was coined to describe just this scenario, and it’s one I despise. An increase in feedings (cluster feeding) is simply nature’s way of increasing your supply. It’s an indication that all is well and just as it should be, not a symptom of a problem – and certainly not a sign that you’re unable to keep up with your baby’s demands and should therefore quit.

The reality is that breastmilk works on a supply and demand basis. So, as in our case, any baby who is not feeding efficiently will leave their mother with a yield too low to satisfy their needs – because they are not feeding efficiently.

Breastfeeding support plus busting the myths surrounding nursing, and lots more information. Click for tips and advice. #breastfeeding #breastfeedingtips #nursingsupport #breastfeedingsupport #normalisebreastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding

Without the sound guidance I received from both Feeding Together and FAB, I’d have been in that overwhelmingly large category of women who believe they are unable to feed their babies due to an insufficient supply.

Initially, my supply was too low to sustain her. I was devastated. But critically, despite our difficulties, I was able to remedy the problem.

And that is my point – I had accurate information at my disposal (and lots of encouragement and support from both breastfeeding experts and hubby) and I persevered; by around two weeks, I was confident in feeding my daughter.

Our bodies are so incredibly intuitive: they know how to adapt if only we don’t interfere.

2. Nipple Confusion

Around the time of writing this piece, a friend gave birth and had some issues breastfeeding. It made me consider what I’m writing in greater depth, for fear of inadvertently causing her (or others) distress. I’ve been reminded that it’s not only pain or concerns on the mother’s part that can be an obstacle to breastfeeding. It is – of course – a joint enterprise, and the baby needs to be a willing participant too.

How to Breastfeed? - Sleeping Baby in Mother's Arms

My friend’s baby seemed reluctant to latch on, preferring a bottle. So, do my assertions fall down when the baby lacks interest in the breast? I don’t believe so.

After careful deliberation and refreshing my knowledge, I stand behind my conviction that the majority of women can breastfeed with the right education and support. The evidence stacks up, and it’s only around 4% of women who have insufficient milk with an underlying issue that’s difficult to treat.

In cases such as my friend’s, I understand how women can feel compelled to bottle feed. In fact, as I gave this due consideration, I realised I was in that precise situation myself: Pixie wound up admitted to hospital because she was too lethargic to feed and became severely dehydrated. So, what did I do differently than my friend, and countless other women in this predicament?

I didn’t offer the choice of a bottle.

Feeding from the breast requires more effort on the baby’s part; thus once a bottle has been offered as an option, it can naturally become difficult to entice a baby to breastfeed. This is often referred to as ‘nipple confusion’, and is why I refused to allow my baby a bottle in hospital and beyond.

Breastfeeding Myths - Baby Being Bottle Fed

If you plan to introduce a bottle, it’s critical that you first establish breastfeeding with your baby, and have a sound understanding of paced feedingThis article explains it well.

3. Babies Are Born Knowing How to Breastfeed (Or Not)

The commonly held belief that babies are born knowing how to breastfeed is simply not true! And this misconception can result in unnecessary worry for the mother, resulting in the premature termination of breastfeeding. I think that’s such a shame.

How Does Breastfeeding Work Then?

So, for the record, a baby is born with an innate suck reflex – but breastfeeding is a learned skill, one which may take a little time for you to both master.

It’s also worth noting that the ‘breast crawl’ reflex is a real phenomenon, and if we don’t intervene, the baby will instinctually seek out the nipple.

Together with the rooting and sucking reflexes, babies are primed to nurse – but they’re still likely to require a little assistance to become proficient in the correct breastfeeding technique.

How to Breastfeed: Health Professionals Breast Knows Best

I’m flummoxed by the lack of breastfeeding education in some health professionals. I absolutely appreciate that doctors, nurses, and the like have trained hard and passed exams that would be far beyond my capability. They do a fantastic job, and I have nothing but respect for them.

But – I hear all too often that some of these very same care providers are administering bogus information to would-be breastfeeders.

Breastfeeding Myths

From my own experience, the agonising pain of cracked nipples resulting from a poor latch can be overcome in 24 hours; blocked milk ducts can be resolved within hours or days; the excruciating pain of nipple-eczema (yep, it’s a thing – a horrific thing!) can be resolved in a week. If a woman’s supply is low, it can (almost always) be fixed.

The truth of it is there are very few women who are anatomically unable to breastfeed.

Sadly, the perception of it being a relatively common issue is so deeply ingrained in society, many find it difficult to hear or accept this information. While I’d love for things to be different, that stigma I mentioned earlier does exist – whether you breastfeed or you don’t.

The subject of breastfeeding is a profoundly personal one, and sometimes it’s easier to leave the status quo unchallenged. But for those keen to learn, you may be surprised to discover how much control you have over your choice to breastfeed – or not.

What do you think? Have you experienced poor support from health care professionals? Was your breastfeeding journey cut shorter than you’d have liked? I’d love to hear from you.

For more breastfeeding posts, head over to Breastfeeding – Help, Advice, Support.

An award-nominated blogger and author, Kate is a huge advocate of personal growth, focusing on journaling to increase positivity and facilitate mindful motherhood. With a wealth of experience in breastfeeding and CMPA, Kate is also an expert baby sleep chaser. Her writing has appeared on Mothercare, Huff Post, and BritMums.


  1. Lisa Backsnbumps Reply

    My first son was bottle fed and son no 2 breastfed as is new baby. It’s a really difficult journey, I’m currently 7 weeks in and it’s tiring but I love it. we’ve had ups and downs but I’m persevering (have you seen how expensive formula is!!). I love the bond it gives us and it’s so convenient. Also I’ve been expressing so daddy can feed her since 2 weeks and this gives them a chance to bond too. #coolmumclub

    • Kate Reply

      I don’t know the cost of formula but I can imagine! I know breastfeeding is often a difficult journey, but also so rewarding. Good luck!

  2. Kate Reply

    I love it too, hence still doing morning and evening feeds! I think my daughter and I will both really miss it when that special time comes to an end. It’s great that you are able to overcome the tongue tie issue and just goes to show what perseverance can achieve. ?

  3. Coombe Mill - Fiona Reply

    It all feels so long ago for me but I must say I was lucky and I enjoyed feeding all six of my children #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      That’s great, I hope I go on to successfully feed any more children I have too.

  4. Mrs Mum NZ Reply

    Establishing breastfeeding is hard! Very hard! I had open wounds for nipples because my son was tongue tied. But it was never picked up by a professional. Even though I asked. It was a friend who told me to go to a private tongue tie specialist and was the best choice I made. Without that appointment I would have given up. Also in the first 3 days I had about 5-6 different midwives tell me different things about breastfeeding… Very confusing! And the courses I attended whilst pregnant failed to mention any of the problems I experienced. Professionals need to give the right information to new mums and to be consistent with one another. If I wasn’t so stubborn I would have resorted to the bottle. But… 17 months and still breastfeeding! #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      I’m so glad you managed to make it work despite your problems and the lack of consistent/accurate info! We’re also 17 months and I think that’s something wonderful to be proud of. ?

  5. Thank you for posting such a decent and honest article. I struggled with breastfeeding at first but persevered and we got there in the end. I had so much drummed in to me by health professionals and that guilt I felt when I was struggling was so hard to deal with – we have too much pressure put on ourselves. Determination got me through but it took time and I hope other women are not too hard on themselves for the difficulties breastfeeding can bring xx #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      Congratulations on persevering to make it work! You’re right, it IS hard, but the benefits are so worth the struggles. Thanks for commenting x

  6. Amy @ Mr and Mrs T Plus Three Reply

    I bloody love you for writing this! What you’ve managed to do is have an open and frank conversation WITHOUT being judgy which is what many BF posts are.

    I would also like to add that these terms and areas of confusion do not seem so common place in countries where BF is the social norm, or where an alternative just isn’t available.

    Obviously I couldn’t agree more with you having done extended BF with all mine, what I regret though is the times were I made excuses to make non or anti BF feel better or more comfortable. Things like ‘oh I only BF because Im too lazy to get up in the night to make a bottle’ and so on, when we both know that is so far from the truth. BF is SO HARD (sorry for all the shouting, but it is) once established though it is the most incredible experience and one that I wouldn’t swap for anything.

    Brilliantly written #thelist #youareawesome 😉 xxx

    • Kate Reply

      Thank you so much for such a lovely, amazing comment! ?

      I completely agree, I have done (and probably will do again) the same with making non/anti bf feel better. It’s that stigma I mentioned at the beginning, isn’t it – we are so paranoid about coming off as judgemental that we don’t allow ourselves to be openly proud of our incredible achievement! We should feel free to say it was hard, but that we stuck at it anyway and it’s been a fantastic experience that we’ve cherished. We shouldn’t be made to feel bad or judgemental for that honesty!

      Thanks again for your wonderful compliments! Mwah xxx

  7. Excellent post. Wish I’d known about Myth 1… I might still have been feeding xx

    • Kate Reply

      I’m sad to hear that Katie, but you’re exactly the kind of reader I hope to reach – so that if you go on to have more, you’re armed with this info for next time.

      Thanks for your comment and wishing your family the best xx

  8. Kate Reply

    It’s amazing how many women report similar experiences! I’m glad so many stand their ground, but it does frustrate me that midwives are not always as supportive as they could be.

    Thanks for commenting and your kind words! X

  9. Kate Reply

    Sounds as though the three of us have a lot in common! I’m pleased to hear you made bf work in spite of your difficult labour. Thanks for commenting.

  10. Rebecca | AAUBlog Reply

    this is a great post. I was never really shown to be honest. But i was determined to do it so stuck at it through being sore. I think women that think they’ll just give it a try and then it hurts as they weren’t shown correctly give up. which is fair enough. I think your determination has a lot to do with it – the rest is up to baby and what they have in mind!!

    • Kate Reply

      Thanks Rebecca, I agree mum’s determination is key. But yes, of course each baby is different too. Although I do think that with perseverance (so long as there are no medical reasons otherwise) there’s no reason why every baby can’t ‘get it’ with encouragement.

  11. This is so interesting, and important too. I was lucky that I had a lot of information prior to giving birth and a lot of support afterwards so breastfeeding has been successful for us. The low milk supply myth has made me so frustrated on many occasions when people who truly want to breastfeed feel they can’t, and it’s just not the case. Misinformation from doctors and health visitors is a nightmare sometimes too. #BloggerClubUK

    • Kate Reply

      Hi Ellen,

      I couldn’t agree more and this is actually the reason I wrote the post.

      Thanks for commenting x

  12. Rachel (Lifeathomewithmrsb) Reply

    I bottle fed both of my children so i don’t know anything about it. Interesting read though and i’m sure this post will be useful for anyone who is or is thinking about breastfeeding. #KCACOLS

    • Kate Reply

      Hi Rachel,

      That means you’re one of the very people I was paranoid of offending. From reading your comment I don’t *think* I have, which is a great relief and I’m so pleased.

      Thanks for commenting x

  13. A Moment with Franca Reply

    What a fantastic post!! Very honest and very informative. I agree with everything that you have said. I have 2 girls and I breastfed them both, actually I’m still breastfeeding my 2nd one (nearly 19 months) and I love it! It wasn’t easy at all! It was very painful at the beginning (in fact it was very painful with both of my girls, something that you wouldn’t thought it could happen but each baby is different, latch different and it can be a very tough journey for each baby you have). I developed cracked nipples and mastitis with my first daughter. I had to use nipple shields to help me with the pain but after persevere a lot we got it at the end. I breastfed her for 10 months. With daughter No 2, I had a difficult start too and I experienced different things too. The first day back at home was a disaster as she couldn’t feed correctly. She seemed very hungry but wasn’t getting the proper amount of milk from me. I had colostrum so my proper milk hadn’t arrived yet so she was struggling to get enough milk from me. We ended up at the A&E and they gave her formula. She was happy after that. However, I persisted with the breastfeeding and I also gave her some bottles until my milk arrived at the 3rd day. And wow!! I had then too much milk and she was shocking every time that I was feeding her. But that meant that I was able to stop the bottle. My breasts were hurting a lot because I had too much milk, so I had to take off my milk. It was always one breast that had more issues than the other one. The thing is that I was persistent and after a few weeks we managed and we haven’t looked back since then and she is still breastfeeding until today! Your post is really well written and explains very well what are the things that really happen when trying to breastfeed and how to keep going! I’m sure it will help a lot of women out there. Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I’m so happy to have you for the first time. I hope that you like it and I would love to see you again on Sunday! 🙂 x

    • Kate Reply

      It’s amazing how many similar stories in hearing, thanks for sharing.

      Thanks so much Franca for your lovely comments! Really pleased you liked the post, thanks for having me! X

  14. The Pramshed Reply

    This is a great post and covers the issues that people associate with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is certainly not easy, and I really believed from attending the NCT breastfeeding class and being told by midwife if I followed all the steps in a leaflet, we would be able to master it. No. Like you, I literally hand my boob forced into our baby’s mouth, and baby shoved onto boob by midwives and a breast feeding specialist. It is by no means easy. But I am so glad that we persevered – the journey was very hard at the beginning with weight loss and formula top ups required, but here we are 7 months later still feeding. The night feeds are beginning to take their toll so I will check out your night weaning blog post. Thanks for posting and sharing. Claire x #BloggerClubUK

    • Kate Reply

      Hi Claire,

      That’s exactly the problem – the realities are not discussed enough in advance, which then leaves many women shocked and perhaps thinking what they’re experiencing I’d outside the scope of ‘normal’.

      I hope the night weaning post helps you x

  15. Kate Reply

    Thanks Debbie, and yes! That’s so true of the cost! And also the ease. And yep, the weight too x

  16. Kate Reply

    Thanks for commenting Emma, I’m sorry to hear of your difficulties. I hope bring armed with accurate info and having proper support will benefit you next time around, if that’s what you choose. X

  17. Kate Reply

    The health implications is just one more wonderful benefit!

    Thanks Becky, I was anxious truth be told! But I’ve been thrilled at the response, I’ve had amazing comments from both breastfeeders and non-breastfeeders.

    Thank you for your lovely words x

  18. Really love this blog post and experienced something very similar. Baby lost over the 10% weight which resulted in blood tests and discovery of low platelets, brain ultrasounds and a feeding plan.

    Having read into breastfeeding and attended a course prior to birth I was determined to breastfeed. While in hospital baby had a good latch and fed almost constantly – I also expressed and cup fed from one breast due to complications. this was said to be normal feeding behaviour in order to stimulate supply. However baby was continually frustrated/upset on the breast and the midwifes offered to give her formula to help settle her. I refused having heard that professionals resort to formula quickly and persevering with breastfeeding was the best option: Had I known it was more common than thought for babies to lose so much weight and for mums not to produce enough milk in the first few days I would have absolutely accepted formula.
    The course we attended was very much breast is best, which I absolutely believe, however there was no room for other feeding options.

    Our feeding plan given by our paediatrician consisted of feeding on both breasts on demand (at least 3 hourly if baby slept) and topping up with 10-30ml formula (in the beginning I was unable to express even 5ml to top up baby). On day five, and for the first time, after a small amount of formula, I watched my baby in awe, so content and finally asleep. On day seven my milk was in and as my baby had finally put on weight we were able to reduce the formula top ups though I expressed and gave as a top up to ensure she was getting milk. Baby was born at 6lbs 8oz and had dropped to 5lbs 3oz.

    I was so against formula that it resulted in a very unhappy baby who had to have blood taken daily for a week (horrible to watch). I felt like a failure that I couldn’t feed my baby and then I felt immense guilt for not giving formula when my baby was clearly starving.

    My baby is now exclusively breasted and my supply was thriving after two weeks on a feeding plan. For any future children I will not be so fixed on breastfeeding. Although I will definitely breastfeed, in those early stages I will ensure to introduce formula after feeding my baby if they are unsettled and clearly not getting the milk they need to be healthy.

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