Breastfeeding – Myth vs Fact
As soon as a pregnant woman or a new mom mentions breastfeeding almost everyone offers to give an advice or opinion to the mother. While some of the advice may be helpful but most of the time wrong information is passed along from time to time through several generations.
It is important to be cautious and differentiate facts from myths so that one can offer the very best to the baby. To help you sort through it all here is the truth behind some of the most common myths about breastfeeding.
Myth #1: Babies who are Formula fed sleep better.
Fact- Since the breast milk is quite easily digestible the breastfed babies get hungrier sooner than if they are formula fed. Because formula milk doesn’t get digested as quickly, it may be a longer stretch between two feedings, so your baby may sleep longer.
Myth #2: If you have small breasts you won’t be able to produce enough milk to feed your baby.
Fact- Size doesn’t matter. Milk ducts are located in the so-called functional tissue rather than in the fatty tissue that is responsible for breast size. So irrespective of the size be assured that your breasts are capable of providing your baby with the milk they need.
Myth 3: Giving the breast a nursing rest can help ensure more milk.
Fact: The more you nurse the more will be the milk production. You should nurse at least 8-9 times a day to ensure enough milk production.
Myth 4: Breast feeding makes the breasts saggy or reduces sensitivity.
Fact: While pregnancy does somewhat change the look and feel of your breasts, breastfeeding does not cause any changes past that. Indeed, evidence suggests that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast cancer later in life.
Myth #5: You must eat only bland foods while breast feeding.
Fact: By the time the foods you eat have been digested and used to make breast milk the possible upsetting elements have been broken down and shouldn’t affect your baby at all.
Myth #6: There should be a strict clock pattern of 2 hour feeding to make sure that your baby gets enough to eat.
Fact: Babies’ eating patterns are as individual as those of their parents. The babies should be fed on demand. If the baby is passing urine 6-8 times a day that means they are eating enough. You can also schedule a weight check with your paediatrician if you’re worried that the baby isn’t getting enough to eat.
Myth #7: If you bottle-feed your baby, he will refuse the breast.
Fact: Until your baby has mastered breastfeeding which is usually at around four weeks there is a high chance of nipple confusion. Breastfeeding requires practice, bottle-feeding doesn’t. Try to delay the introduction of bottle till 4 weeks of age. If you have to use it for one or two feedings a day. Your baby will develop the skills needed to bottle feed without losing the ability to feed at the breast. It is recommended to use breast milk when trying the bottle and cuddling with the baby which will help in bonding.
Myth #8: You shouldn’t nurse if you have a blocked duct or breast infection.
Truth: Exactly the opposite of this is true. Nursing frequently or applying heat (heating pad or wet washcloth) is the best way to clear a blocked duct. Also be sure your bra isn’t too constricting; and avoid underwire bras as they can compress ducts. If you do develop a breast infection—symptoms include redness and soreness in the breast a fever and flulike symptoms—see your doctor right away as you’ll need to take antibiotics.
Myth #9: Breast feeding is a reliable form of birth control.
Fact: If you’re not ready to be pregnant again don’t rely on breastfeeding for birth control. However, if you’re breast feeding exclusively and that means frequently day and night if your baby is younger than 6 months and if your period hasn’t resumed the so-called lactation amenorrhea method can be 98 % effective in preventing pregnancy. But if all three of those criteria are not met or if you’re letting your baby use a pacifier [which can make a baby suck less often or less intensely when on the breast in turn affecting your hormone production] breastfeeding should not be used as contraception.
Myth #10: Breast feeding your child for more than a year makes weaning difficult.
Fact: Babies are individuals and some just want to nurse longer than others. Some children give it up on their own at about 1 year of age while others are content to nurse well past their second birthday. But if you reach a point where you no longer enjoy it you may want to consider weaning to avoid sending negative messages to your baby.
Myth #11: Many women produce limited milk
Fact: Majority of women produce adequate milk. Some babies don’t gain enough weight or lose weight. This isn’t due to inadequacy of milk but the milk not reaching the baby. The common reason for this is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. This is why it is crucial that the mother be shown on the first day how to latch a baby on properly by someone who knows what they are doing.
Myth#12: It is normal for breast feeding to hurt.
Fact: Some tenderness during the first few days is relatively common, this should be a temporary situation that should last only for a few days and should never be so bad that the mother dreads breast feeding. There might be some discomfort or pain due to the baby latching on. Any nipple pain which is not getting better by day three or four or lasts beyond five or six days should never be ignored. A new onset of pain when things are normal for a while may be due to a yeast infection of the nipples. Limiting the feeding time does not prevent soreness. Taking the baby off the breast for the nipples to heal should be a last resort only.
Myth#13- A breast feeding baby needs extra water in hot weather
Fact- Breast milk contains all the water a baby need.
Myth#14- A mother should wash her nipples each time before feeding the baby.
Fact- Washing nipples before each feeding makes breast feeding unnecessarily complicated and washes away protective oils from the nipple.
Myth#15- Breast feeding ties the mother down.
Fact- It depends on how an individual looks at it. A baby can be breastfed anywhere, anytime and therefore breastfeeding is liberating for the mother. No need to drag around bottles or formula or where to warm up the milk or sterility of the bottles. No need to worry about how your baby is because he is with you.
Myth#16- Modern formulas are nearly the same as breast milk.
Fact- Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breast milk. They are the inexact copies. Formulas contain no antibodies, living cells, enzymes and hormones. The proteins and fats are basically different from those in breast milk. Breast milk is tailor-made for the baby. Formulas do not differ from the beginning to the end of the feed or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30 or from woman to woman or from baby to baby. Formulas are successful only to make babies grow well usually but there is much more to breast feeding than just nutrients.
Myth#17: If the mother has an infection, she should stop breastfeeding
Fact: Baby is relatively less threatened if the mother continues to breastfeed the baby. Till the time, mother is suffering from fever or cough, vomiting, diarrhea, rash etc. she has already transferred the infection to the baby as she has been infectious for several days before she even knew she was sick. Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infection and is the recommended source of nutrition, even when the mother is ill.
Myth#18: If your baby has diarrhea or vomiting, then the mother should stop breast feeding
fact: The best medicine for a baby’s gut infection is breastfeeding. Stop any other foods for a short duration but continue with breast feeding. In such conditions, the baby requires breast milk for fluid intake, except under exceptional circumstances.
Myth#19: If the mother is taking medicines, she should not breastfeed the baby
Fact: There are limited medicines which a mother cannot take safely during breast feeding. Inform your doctor that you are lactating and she will offer you a substitute if medicine is truly of concern.
Visit our consultants at our obstetrics department for special maternity services, clarifications and guidance.
- Ms. Anne Durell
- Director, Nursing