Common breastfeeding myths every mom should ignore
Hearing endless conflicting opinions and techniques for breastfeeding? We break some of the common myths surrounding breastfeeding so you can separate fact from fiction!
As a new mom, you will begin producing breastmilk soon after the birth of your little one. Breastmilk and nursing are critical for your baby as it is their first form of sustenance in the world, capable of both providing food and nutrition, as well as building immunity and aiding growth. However, given the adage “it takes a village to raise a child”, there still exists various misconceptions and myths about breastfeeding and pregnancy. These breastfeeding myths masquerading as facts can often do more harm than good. Here are some of the most common breastfeeding myths you should be aware of.
Myth 1: Many women do not produce enough breastmilk
This is one of the most common breastfeeding myths that has been around for centuries. Several studies have proven that the majority of new mothers produce more than enough milk to satisfy their baby’s needs. In fact, production of breast milk happens on supply and demand basis. The more one breastfeeds, the more milk is being produced. In situations where newborns gain weight slowly or lose weight, the reason is not that the mother is incapable of producing milk; instead, it could be because your baby is not latching on correctly to your breast and isn’t receiving the adequate amount of breastmilk. Counter this by learning how to get your baby to latch on correctly.
Myth 2: Breastfeeding hurts
‘Does breastfeeding hurt’ is is another common concern that continues to be perpetuated. While it is common to feel some soreness in your nipples, breastfeeding is never supposed to be painful. Soreness is to be expected for the first three to four days but will soon disappear as you continue nursing. However, if you experience pain in your breasts or nipples for longer than this period, consult your doctor without delay. The onset of pain could be due to a yeast or fungal infection around your nipples. If this happens, you will have to meet your doctor immediately. Furthermore, do not consider limiting your breastfeeding time as this will do you and your baby more harm than good.
Myth 3: Nursing too often will lead to reduced milk production
This is another perpetuated myth that is entirely false. Contrary to popular belief, once you begin breastfeeding, you and your baby will fall into a unique rhythm of your own. This includes how often you have to feed, for how long, the most comfortable position for you and your little one and so on. Never limit your baby’s nursing time or the amount of milk they consume, particularly within the first 6 to 12 weeks of their birth. As soon as you start breastfeeding, you will have milk available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So never skimp on feeding your baby, as your breastmilk is his or her only source of nourishment and sustenance, and depriving them of it can lead to multiple problems in the future.
Myth 4: Latch is more important that position
Feeding positions and latching go hand-in-hand. Sometimes both affect the other, as a bad feeding position can lead to a bad latch. The best breastfeeding positions are ones that work best for you and your baby. You may have to try a few different positions before finding the position that maximises your breastfeeding experience. Regardless of which position you choose, ensure you are cradling your baby correctly, your back is supported, and your little one is directly facing the nursing breast. This will allow your baby to get a good latch onto your breast and, as a result, a belly full of milk.
Myth 5: Using a pump will make your breasts sag
It is a common misconception that expressing milk via a breast pump will cause sagging breasts. However, this is far from true. New mothers or breastfeeding mothers experience sagging breasts due to several other reasons including wearing poor quality bras or nursing bras, lack of exercise, poor diet and not taking care of their bodies in general. The breast pump in no way alters the shape or size of your breasts; when used correctly, it can make the breastfeeding experience much easier for you and your little one. In fact, the more often you use a breast pump to express milk, the more you increase the amount of milk production.
Myth 6: You should wash your nipples before breastfeeding
Many new mothers either believe or are told that they must wash their nipples before they feed. However, there is no basis for this practice. With formula feed, you need to pay extra attention to ensure the feeding bottles and other equipment used are thoroughly sanitised to protect your baby against infection and potential disease. Not only that, milk leftover in this equipment will turn into a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria. When it comes to your nipples, however, there is no need to clean or wash them before nursing your baby. Breastmilk helps protect your little one from infection and illness and washing your nipples will only complicate the breastfeeding process as well as strip away the skin’s natural and protective oils.
Myth 7: You should only eat bland food while breastfeeding
While everyone is advised to follow a balanced diet, this step applies even more strongly to new mothers. Breastfeeding and health needs to be managed well. With every period of nursing, a new mother loses 500 calories, and the only way to replace them is by eating healthy. However, a healthy diet does not have to mean bland and boring food. This common breastfeeding myth derives from the thought that spicy food or food that is strongly flavoured will transfer through your breastmilk and upset your baby. On the contrary, several studies have proven that your little one is exposed to all the flavours you consume in utero and while nursing, and are more likely to enjoy these flavours while weaning. So an excellent way to ensure your baby doesn’t grow up to be a picky eater is by exposing them to new and exciting flavours even before they are born!
Myth 8: You can’t use formula while breastfeeding
There can be many reasons for parents to switch from breastmilk to formula feed for their baby. However, it is essential to remember to introduce your baby to formula feed while continuing to breastfeed. This will ensure your baby gets a balanced meal and also ensure your milk production will not decrease. Formula feed offers many advantages, particularly for babies who are lactose intolerant. If you are unsure about making the switch, consult a lactation specialist to help you create the perfect feeding plan for you and your little one.
Myth 9: You shouldn’t breastfeed while sick
Baring a few rare exceptions, a mother’s illness does not affect her baby during nursing. No matter how mild or severe your illness (be it a rash, the flu, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.) the infection would have started a few days to a week before the symptoms start showing. In fact, your baby’s best protection against getting the infection themselves is through breastfeeding. This is because your little one’s immune system is just growing and developing and breastmilk will provide them with the antibodies they need to fight off early signs of infection.
Myth 10: Breastfeeding is an effective contraceptive
While this breastfeeding myth might not be a complete fallacy, it is not entirely true either. Breastfeeding can act as birth control, but only if certain specific conditions are met. For instance, new mothers who begin breastfeeding immediately after birth, nurse every four to six hours and have not gotten their period within the first six months of delivery may agree that breastfeeding as a contraceptive is a valid method. However, this technique is not entirely fool-proof as research shows that 1 in 100 women who practice continuous breastfeeding can and will get pregnant. If you are using more reliable forms of birth control like contraceptive pills, don’t forget to check out our blog on emergency contraceptive pills – benefits and side effects.
Myth 11: You’re a bad mom if you don’t breastfeed
Breastfeeding provides innumerable benefits for both you and your baby, but many mothers are unable to breastfeed for many reasons – they could suffer from reduced milk production, have to pause their breastfeeding early to get back to work, their baby might be lactose intolerant and so on. No matter what the reason, moms who substitute their breastmilk for formula feed are not bad mothers. The most important thing for your little one is to provide them with the adequate amount of nutrients they require and shower them with as much love and affection as you can!
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Breastfeeding can be a daunting experience, particularly if you are a new mom. But parents today have access to a host of extensive information. Learning early on how to distinguish fact from fiction will not only help you gain confidence but will also enable you to create the best nursing experience for yourself and your baby. If you require any assistance during your lactation or nursing, be sure to consult one of the city’s top paediatricians at mFine.