Breastfeeding Myths Shattered

There is nothing more healthy and natural for your baby than breastfeeding.  It helps lay the foundation of a healthy life for a baby and also makes a positive contribution to the wellbeing of mothers. However, friends and relatives, with good intentions may tell you several myths that should be debunked. Among the more popular are the following:

Myth: Many women don’t produce enough milk.

Fact: Most women produce more milk than they really need to. When a baby gains weight too slowly, or loses weight, it is not because the mother isn’t producing enough milk, but because the baby isn’t receiving the milk that the mother has. The usual cause is the baby not latching onto the breast properly. A first-time mother needs to be shown how to latch a baby on properly by a nurse or  someone who is experienced.

Myth: Breastfeeding is painful

Fact: During the first few days, the nipples may hurt slightly while breastfeeding, but this is only a temporary situation.  However, if the pain is abnormal or continues for a long time, it means the baby is not latching on properly. Observe the baby’s sucking movements. It should start from a few quick short sucks to slow deep ones. Any nipple pain that last more than a week requires medical consultation. A possible cause of pain in the nipples is yeast infection.

Myth: You can’t dye or perm your hair when breastfeeding

Fact: Not true. Dyeing or perming your hair isn’t going to affect the milk that you produce.

Myth: Breastfeeding causes the breasts to sag

Fact: A research by the University of Kentucky has found that breastfeeding neither causes sagging nor affects the breast shape. A study of 312 patients found no difference in the amount of sagging between those who breastfed their babies and those who bottlefed them. Pregnancy weight gain, hormonal fluctuations, heredity and age are factors causing the breasts to sag. To minimize sagging, wear a supportive bra and exercise to maintain the tone of the skin along with the muscles underneath.

Myth: Not enough milk is produced during the first three or four days after birth.

Fact: Two to five days after the birth, the breast is already filled with milk. But before that, a woman’s breasts will produce colostrum. Colostrum is rich and thick with ample nutrients, antibodies, and calories. It is ideal for the newborn. The colostrum gradually turns into mature milk. Therefore, it is the baby not attaching itself onto the breast properly during the first few days after birth.

Myth: A baby should be on the breast for a certain period on each side.

Fact: If a baby has been drinking for 15-20 minutes on the first side, it may not be necessary to take the second side at all. Obtaining the normal balance of  foremilk and hindmilk is more important. A baby can be encouraged to drink more if the mother compresses the breast to keep the flow going.

Myth: During hot weather, a breastfeeding baby needs extra water.

Fact: Breast milk contains all the water a baby needs.

Myth: Many breastfed babies lack vitamin D.

Fact: The amount of vitamin D in breast milk depends on the mother’s vitamin D status.  If the mother has not been consuming enough foods or supplements containing vitamin D during pregnancy, then she may be vitamin D deficient. However, in healthy mothers, the baby stores vitamin D during the pregnancy. So, a bit of  exposure to sunlight is sufficient to meet the baby’s vitamin D needs.

Myth: A mother should wash her nipples each time before feeding the baby.

Fact: For hygiene purposes, a  daily shower is adequate but avoid using soap on the breasts. Latex nipples and feeding bottles for formula feeding have to be sterilized because they are breeding ground for bacteria and can also be easily contaminated. On the other hand, breast milk protects the baby against infection. Washing nipples before each feeding complicates breastfeeding unnecessarily and washes away protective oils from the nipple.

Myth: Women with flat or inverted nipples cannot breastfeed

Fact: Milk comes from the breast not the nipple. However, getting help with latch-on and positioning is critical for the mother with flat or inverted nipples. The baby must learn to open his mouth wide in order to by-pass the nipple and close his gums farther back on the breast. As long as a baby can take in a  good mouthful of breast, a flat or inverted nipple does not affect milk flow.

Myth: If you pump, you can see or calculate how much milk you are producing.

Fact: A pump cannot remove as much milk as a baby, and also cannot stimulate the breasts like a baby can. Pumping only tells you have much you can pump, but not an accurate estimate of how much milk you are producing.

Myth: Breast milk does not contain sufficient iron for the baby’s needs.

Fact: Breast milk contains just enough iron for the baby’s needs. Full-term babies will get enough iron from breast milk to last them for at least the first six  months of life. Formulas deliberately  contain too much iron as this quantity ensures the baby absorbs enough to prevent iron deficiency. This is because the iron in formula milk is poorly absorbed, with most of it passing straight through the baby. Generally, there is no need to add other foods to a breastfed baby’s diet before six months of age.

Myth: It is easier to bottlefeed than to breastfeed.

Fact: Breastfeeding is more convenient than bottlefeeding as no sterilizing equipment, preparation and cleaning up are required. However, the mother needs to start off feeling comfortable with breastfeeding.

Myth: If the mother is taking medicine she should not breast feed.

Fact: There are very, very few medicines that a mother cannot take safely while breastfeeding. Only a minimal quantity of most medicines appears in the milk, but they do not have any effects on the baby. If a medicine is truly of concern, there are usually equally effective, alternative medicines which are safe. The loss of benefit of breastfeeding for both the mother and the baby must be taken into account when weighing if breastfeeding should be

Myth: A baby with diarrhoea or vomiting should not breastfeed.

Fact: The best treatment for a gut infection is breastfeeding. Discontinue other foods for a short time but continue breastfeeding. If lactose intolerance is a problem, the baby can receive over-the-counter lactase drops just before or after the feeding, but this is rarely necessary in breastfeeding babies. Lactose-free formula is not better than breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is better than any formula.

Myth: A mother must drink milk to produce milk

Fact: A healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins is all that a mother needs to provide the proper nutrients to produce milk. Calcium can be obtained from a variety of nondairy foods such as dark green vegetables, seeds, nuts and bony fish.

Myth: Sour mothers produce sour milk

Fact: There is no scientific evidence to show that if a mother gets angry or upset, she produces sour milk, and the feeding baby will also feel the same way.

Myth: If the mother has an infection, she should stop breastfeeding.

Fact: With rare exceptions, the baby will be protected by the mother’s continuing to breastfeed. By the time the mother has fever (or cough, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, etc) she has already given the baby the infection, since she has been infectious for several days before she even knew she was sick. The baby’s best protection against getting the infection is for the mother to continue breastfeeding. If the baby does get sick, he will be less sick if the mother continues breastfeeding.

Myth: Modern formulas are almost the same as breast milk.

Fact: Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breast milk and cannot be a perfect  substitute. Formulas do not contain antibodies, living cells, enzymes, or hormones. On the other hand, they contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium and iron than breast milk. Though they contain more protein than breast milk, the proteins and fats differs from those in breast milk.

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