There’s a lot of information out there about breastfeeding. Internet, social networks, family and friends. Everyone has tips and advice for you when it comes to breastfeeding. How can you distinguish between true or false so you can offer the very best to your baby?
Here is a complete list of common myths about breastfeeding, followed by explanations for the purpose of clarifying the issue.
FACT: The short answer is- NO. The size of your breasts does not affect your ability to breastfeed your child in any way. The size of the breasts is different in women who are not pregnant owing to the differences in fat content present in the breasts. The tissues which produce the breast milk are laid only after the woman gets pregnant, so they are not characteristic of the size in any way. Having smaller breasts mean that you have fewer amounts of fat in your breasts, and does not mean that you have a less amount of milk-making tissue. Therefore, women who have small breasts are more than capable of being able to feed their child with a healthy supply of milk.
FACT: Milk production plays on ‘supply and demand’ mechanism. The more the milk is ejected out of the mother’s breasts, the signal to produce more milk is sent to the brain. A mother having multiple kids has full capacity to nourish their children and give them satiety satisfactorily.
FACT: HIV and HTLV-1 are the only infectious diseases that are considered absolute contraindications to breastfeeding in developed countries. During any “ordinary” illness such as a cold, sore throat, flu, tummy bug, fever, mastitis, etc. you should continue to breastfeed.
FACT: When babies are born, they are already very familiar with their own mother’s smells and sounds. The nipples produce a substance that the baby smells and has ‘good bacteria’ that helps to build a baby’s own healthy immune system for life.
FACT: It’s important for women who breastfeed to eat healthy, balanced meals. However, it’s false to think that they must reduce or increase their consumption of certain foods. It’s possible for babies to be affected by food their mother eats, but this is unusual. Mother’s should keep an eye on how their child reacts and perceive different tastes.
FACT: All mothers can produce enough milk. It depends upon the proper latch, how well breasts are being emptied, and the frequency of breastfeeding. Surprisingly, it also depends on how optimistic the mother is about the process. The hormones involved in milk production work on the ‘demand-supply’ mechanism.
FACT: Some babies might be clingy while some may not. But it has no relation to breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding is the best nutrition for the infant and has shown to create a better bonding between the mother and the child.
FACT: As per WHO guidelines, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their infancy. After six months, the child should be introduced with weaning foods gradually along with breastfeeding, which ideally should be continued for two years of life. One should also perceive their taste preferences and it’s no hard task to let baby eat all kinds of food.
FACT: Sometimes, women become pregnant while they breastfeed. If the mother wishes to, she can continue breastfeeding. It isn’t dangerous for the fetus or the breastfed child. However, hormonal changes during pregnancy may affect the quantity and composition of milk production. If the quantity of breast milk is insufficient, it’s possible to complement it with infant formula.
FACT: The establishment of breastfeeding may hurt a little to the mother right during the beginning days. But once the process has been set, it’s unusual to have pain. It might be due to poor latch or wrong positioning. If the pain persists, consult your doctor or a health counselor.
FACT: Breast milk is a sufficient meal for a baby for the first six months of infancy. Breasts consist of two types of milk: Foremilk and Hind milk. Foremilk which is ejected first during each breastfeed is rich in water content that quenches the thirst; whereas hind milk is rich in fat that gives your baby his/her much-needed satiety. Let your baby suckle for enough time (20 minutes approx) to get both the benefits.
FACT: Breastfeeding a sick baby gives her a great chance of a speedy recovery, as well as helping to comfort her. Your breast milk contains antibodies, white blood cells, stem cells, and protective enzymes that fight infections and may help with healing. It also has a constantly adjusting balance of vitamins and other nutrients, supporting her to get better as quickly as possible. And that means fewer sick days and visits to the doctor for both of you. Amazingly, the composition of your breast milk changes when your baby is ill and also it is very easy to digest.
FACT: Many medications are compatible with breastfeeding. If you’re taking one that isn’t, you may be able to find a safer substitute. Ask your doctor or lactation consultant to look up the most recent data on any medications you need. If you have to take medication that is not safe for breastfeeding, pump and discard your milk while taking the medicine and then resume breastfeeding after it’s no longer in your system.
FACT: Most breastfeeding issues are manageable and can be overcome in a relatively short amount of time. Some challenges, such as nipple pain, are fairly simple and can be taken care of rather easily by adjusting the latch, for instance. Other problems, such as low milk production or a baby, who is unable to latch, can be more complex. But with the right support – such as the help of a lactation consultant – you can overcome almost any breastfeeding problem.
FACT: The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that babies be fed every 2 to 3 hours (or about 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period) during the first couple weeks of life. But once your baby is back to birth weight (by two weeks at the latest), you can start following her cues. Feed her when she shows signs of hunger, such as restlessness, smacking and licking lips, sucking on hands, or opening and closing her mouth. Most babies start to have a more predictable eating pattern within a few weeks.
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M. Sc. Gold Medalist