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Every new mother finds themselves the recipient of a world of advice – some sound and others, unintentionally, not so – from family and well-wishers. The trouble one faces, when separating the truth from the chaff, is that many myths are steeped in partly truthful knowledge.
Here are some of the myths to watch out for!
Myth 1 – Women With Smaller Breasts Will Not Produce Enough Milk For The Baby
Size doesn’t affect the amount of milk you produce in any way. In fact, the breast tissue that is required in nursing your child grows as a response to your pregnancy (It is part of the many bodily changes you will have experienced). It is in this newly developed tissue that milk ducts are located and not in the fatty tissue that is responsible for size. Contrary to this myth, most women actually produce an overabundance of milk. In fact, milk production is largely determined by the stimulation of your mammary glands and proper latching of the baby when feeding. This is established in the first two weeks after your delivery.
Myth 2 – It Is Normal For Breast Feeding To Hurt
Though new mothers may almost certainly experience some tenderness when they have just begun breastfeeding, it should be temporary and not last for more than a few days. Usually, if soreness persists, it is caused due to improper latching and limiting your breastfeeding time will not help you recover from it. This is why most experts opine that a new mother should be trained on how to breastfeed correctly.
Myth 3 – You Will Not Produce Enough Milk During The First Three To Four Days
This is technically true. However, it implies the false notion that there needs to be a lot of milk production during these days. The truth of it is that in the first few days, mommies produce “colostrum”, which is thicker than normal milk and contains a rich load of antibodies, enzymes, growth factors and immunoglobulins that protect the newborn. Colostrum is only required by the baby in small doses as compared to regular milk due to its powerful nourishing potency.
Myth 4 – Your Nipples Should Be Washed Before Every Feeding
Among breastfeeding myths and truths this myth, at first glance, seems to hold water more than most others. Also, when one looks at the common instructions regarding sterilising and thoroughly washing baby bottles before each feed this logic may seem to naturally follow. However, baby formula does not contain natural antibodies that actively protect the baby against infection. Apart from unnecessarily complicating the natural process of breastfeeding, washing your nipples could also rid it of natural protective oils.
Myth 5 – Breast Feeding Is Akin To Natural Contraception
If you do not want to get pregnant, do not count on the fact that you are breastfeeding to be a reliable form of birth control. The truth behind the myth is that, if these three conditions are met:
- Your baby is exclusively breastfed (around the clock)
- It is less than 6 months since the delivery
- Your periods haven’t resumed
Your body does have an extremely low chance of getting pregnant – it is 98% safe. However, this ‘lactation amenorrhea’ is highly dependent on the balance of hormones in your body and a reduction of breastfeeding time per day will soon affect your amenorrhea.
Myth 6 – It Is Easier To Bottle Feed Than Breast Feed
This might just come down to the subjectivity of the individual, but it, generally, should not be true. Difficulty in breastfeeding often arises from a poor start to nursing, where the mother and child are both unfamiliar with how proper latching can be attained.
Myth 7 – A Baby Should Be Fed Every Two Hours, Around The Clock
Just like the myth right before this one, subjectivity could play a role in this. Just like us adults, babies too have their own individual eating patterns. This being said, it is true that many babies and moms fall into the routine of feeding once every 2 hours throughout the day and into the night. One way to look at whether your baby is feeding enough is to observe their “output”. Six wet diapers and two to three stools passed per day is an indication of a healthy baby.
Myth 8 – Modern Formulas Are Similar To Breast Milk
This is false! Formulas are manufactured to imitate the contents of breast milk, but they do not contain any living cells, enzymes, antibodies or hormones. A mother’s breast milk changes to suit the changing needs of her baby while formula remains the same from week to week. Formulas are developed for “all” babies and therefore cannot serve the differences in the needs of any single baby. One breastfeeding weight loss myth says that stopping breastfeeding can help you lose your ‘baby weight’ acquired over the course of pregnancy. This is simply illogical, considering that a breastfeeding mother burns up to 500 or more calories per day simply by breastfeeding their child!
Myth 9 – Nursing Should Be Stopped If The Mother Has An Infection
This is very rarely true. Common infections like fever are passed from the mother to her nursing child before she is even aware of having the infection. The baby’s protection depends on being breastfed, as they will have their mother’s immunity fighting for them too. This is because the mother’s well developed immune system can make antibodies to combat her infection much more easily than a child’s can and those antibodies are transmitted to the child through her natural breast milk.
Myth 10 – Nursing Should Be Stopped If You Contract A Breast Infection Or Have A Blocked Duct
False. Indeed, the opposite is usually true! The natural way to open a blocked duct is to breastfeed as much as possible. Ducts become blocked when there is a build up of milk that occurs due to breastfeeding becoming less frequent. This could happen if your baby has their nutrition supplemented with solids or formula, or started taking longer naps or sleeps through the night. Blocked ducts may lead to breast infections; however, infection doesn’t make it unsafe for your baby. A breast infection is indicated by redness accompanied by soreness in your breast and development of fever or flu-like symptoms. You will need to take antibiotics to help with it, so do consult your doctor.
Myth 11 – If The Mother Has To Take Medicines, She Should Stop Breastfeeding
Mostly False. Very few drugs taken by the mother could go on to actually harm the child, and those that may, usually have alternatives! When breastfeeding, a very small amount of the mother’s medication may end up reaching the child, but, as stated, mostly the drugs are safe, and the amounts transmitted are negligible.
Myth 12 – Exercise Could Lead To Sour Milk
The theory behind this myth was that the high amounts of lactic acid produced due to exercise would lead to a sour taste in a mother’s milk. While that may be, studies show that babies don’t notice the difference. Saltiness, due to dried sweat on and around your nipples, caused by exercise, however, could put your child off. Also take care to only wear restrictive bras, such as your workout bra or underwire bras, for short periods of time only, as the tightness could lead to clogging of ducts.
Myth 13 – A Baby Should Be Nursed On Both Sides For 20 Minutes At A Time
This is pointless! Your baby will not feed for the same amount of time every meal, just as you will eat more when you are hungry and less when you aren’t. Also, the better your child is latched on to your nipple, the longer they are going to feed, which will naturally make them less likely to feed as much or at all on the other side. If one side feels unevenly full, you could resort to pumping.
Myth 14 – Breast Feeding Babies Need Extra Vitamin D
False. Babies are born with a liver rich in Vitamin D and also get some amounts of vitamin D through breast milk. Any more that may be required is absorbed from ultraviolet light outdoors (even in low light conditions of winter). They do not need exposure to sunlight daily. The only instance where supplementing your baby with vitamin D might become necessary is if the mother herself has a vitamin D deficiency during the course of the pregnancy.
Myth 15 – The Mother Should Eat Only Bland Foods During BreastFeeding Months
Some foods such as shellfish, fish, soy, peanuts, etc. that are linked with allergies, could upset your baby’s stomach if they are born with an allergy. As for the taste of foods, differences in the taste of your milk are usually so slight that the baby wouldn’t notice. It would be prudent to keep a food diary. If your baby acts fussy about your milk anytime between two to twelve hours after eating a certain new type of food, then it could be the cause.
Breastfeeding is an integral part of the relationship between a mother and her child. While some find this inconvenient to our modern, fast lifestyles, the truth is, breastfeeding is much more liberating than bottle feeding. One doesn’t need to carry around a bagful of equipment just to feed their baby. Human beings have been breastfeeding their offsprings for hundreds of thousands of years without any ill consequence intrinsic to the act. It is not just natural, it is a divine part of the experience that is motherhood.