Breast milk is the best food you can offer your newborn. As soon as you get to hold your baby in the delivery room you can let your newborn latch on to your breast and start breastfeeding. Starting out right makes breastfeeding a pleasant experience to you and your newborn.
You shouldn't follow a strict hourly schedule to breastfeed your newborn. It's recommended that you should ideally start nursing your newborn whenever you notice your baby showing signs of hunger, like being extra alert and active and/or trying to mouth or latch on to your nipple/breast, or else your baby would start crying.
Misconceptions and myths over breastfeeding have prevailed for many generations. The moment people around you know that you've delivered a baby and plan to breastfeed, will they start giving you their opinions. A few pointers may be worth it, but too often the wrong information is given.
Whether you've breastfed your babies before, or you're getting ready to do so, here are 25 common breastfeeding myths and misconceptions that will help you understand the facts about breastfeeding:
25 Myth : There is No Milk in the First Few Days
Colostrum is the first milk your breasts produce during pregnancy. The small amounts are perfect for a new baby’s tiny stomach. Just make sure that you start early by giving your newborn your breast to latch on to. The first day's thick colostrum is very important for your baby as it contains essentials nutrients, antibodies and immunoglobulins. Once your baby starts sucking well, more milk will start coming down in a couple of day's time.
24 Myth : It's Normal for Breastfeeding to Hurt
No, it's not true. It's common to have some tenderness during the first few days and it doesn’t last long. If as a mother you dread breastfeeding because you've got sore nipples, then your newborn is probably not latching on to your breasts properly; and if, at the same time, your baby doesn't get enough milk, then your baby will try to stay on the breast for long periods, this can aggravate your nipples and cause pain.
There are other possibilities including sucking issues with baby from birth interventions or physical characteristics such as a tied tongue.
Breast milk contains components that help heal your breast nipples when they're sore, that is, your milk itself can give you some relief. Massage some of your breast milk on the sore spots, and hopefully you may feel better to some extent. You can also try breaking Vitamin E capsules over your nipples and rubbing it into your skin for relief as well.
If the nipple pain does not subside or get better in 3 to 4 days and lasts beyond 5 to 6 days then it should not be ignored. Get help as soon as possible from someone with the knowledge and experience to help.
23 Myth : Many Moms Don't Produce Enough Milk
Many moms can produce more than enough milk for their little ones. It's believed that around 1-2% of new mothers really aren't able to produce enough milk for their newborns. Generally low milk production is due to less stimulation of the breast from nursing. Many babies won't gain weight quickly after birth or are lose weight if they don't get enough.
The simple reason behind this isn't because the mom doesn't produce enough milk, but because the baby hasn't been able to latch on to the breast properly to suck the milk the mom has. That's why it's important for the new mom to be shown on the very first day after delivering her baby how to help her baby latch on properly.
22 Myth : Babies Need to Nurse Every -Hours
Babies need to be breastfed on demand. Babies do need to nurse often, every 2 hours or even less. Babies have tiny stomachs so they can just suck a little milk every time they're fed and moreover, breast milk gets digested quickly.
Research shows that if a mother breastfeeds her newborn early and quite often (an average of 9.9 times a day) in the first two weeks of her baby’s birth, the production of her milk will increase and her newborn will gain more weight if breastfeeding continues for a longer period of time.
21 Myth : Frequent Nursing Leads to Poor Milk Production
In fact, production of milk is optimized with frequent nursing by your baby. If you pick up your baby’s cue that they need to breastfeed, and you let your baby breastfeed at every demand, the milk ejects with a good flow from the breasts as milk production is related to more frequent feedings. Milk supply declines when feedings are restricted or less frequent.
20 Myth : Night-time Feedings Aren't Important
The levels of Prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, is at its highest at night. So night-time feedings (or pumping out milk from the breasts) are important for milk production. If you're tired and want to sleep, you can take your baby to sleep with you. When you co-sleep with your baby they can latch on to your breast to feed as often as the baby wants to.
19 Myth : If Breasts Don't Feel Full, There's Little Milk Supply
Many moms worry that they don’t have enough milk just because their breasts are soft or don't feel full. Breasts don't have to feel full to be full of your milk. After the first few weeks, your body adjusts to your baby’s needs, and the full feeling disappears. It's normal because your body is adjusting to your baby's milk intake and is in sync with your baby’s needs. The breasts are never ‘empty’ and produce milk with frequent breastfeeds.
18 Myth : Breastfeeding Moms Must Use Both Breasts at Each Feeding Time
This isn't necessarily true. It's more important to let your baby finish the breast s/he is latched to, and then maybe you can let your baby feed on the second one. Babies gradually drink up to the hindmilk till the breast is completely drained. If you switch your baby prematurely to the second breast, your baby may be able to fill up on the lower-calorie foremilk from both breasts rather than getting the normal balance of foremilk and hindmilk. This could result in your baby being dissatisfied and possibly even poor weight gain. You can offer both breasts at each feeding, in the early few weeks after delivery, to help establish the milk supply.
17 Myth : Breasts Take Time to Fill Up with Every Feed
Your breasts are continuously producing milk when your baby feeds on your breasts. So, you don't need to wait for a certain period of time for your breasts to fill up with milk before putting your baby back to your breast.
16 Myth : There's No Way to Tell if the Baby is Getting Enough Breast Milk
Just look at your Baby. If you notice your baby happy, satisfied and gaining weight, that itself shows that your baby is getting enough of your breast milk. Other indicators are: having plenty of wet and dirty diapers, meeting monthly developmental milestones, outgrowing clothes and diapers.
If your baby isn't doing this then you might have a problem on your hands.
15 Myth : Modern Milk Formulas are Almost the Same as Breast Milk
Breast milk is the Best! No milk can replace that. These claims are incorrect. Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breast milk.
It's been proven and tested that breast milk has over 300 ingredients including white cells, antibacterial and antiviral agents, etc. While formula has only 40 (non-living) ingredients like iron, lead, aluminum, manganese, protein and many more.
Formulas don't vary and are made to suit every baby whereas your own breast milk is just suited for your baby's unique needs.
14 Myth : Moms with Small Breasts Can't Make Enough Milk
False. Breast size doesn't matter at all. Milk production has nothing to do with breast size. In fact, it's possible for women with smaller breasts to have an oversupply of milk! Just make sure to understand the needs of your baby and breastfeed as and when demanded to ensure adequate production of milk.
13 Myth : Women with Flat or Inverted Nipples Can't Breastfeed
Moms with any shaped nipples can breastfeed very well and adequately, babies breastfeed on the breasts and not the nipples. It just makes it easier for a baby to latch onto a breast with a good rounded nipple, but it's not a necessity.
You just need to let your baby hold your breast in their mouth and slightly squeeze your breasts to help let the milk flow into your baby’s mouth. As long as you maintain a good supply of milk, your baby will definitely latch onto your breasts. Get help if you are unable to manage.
12 Myth :Babies Who Are Frequently on the Breasts are Likely to Get ‘Colicky’
Frequent feedings could make your baby ‘Colicky’, but that's because babies typically breastfeed for a few minutes and then start nibbling until they fall asleep. If they're offered the breast again, once again they'll nibble on the breasts and fall asleep. This way they fill up their stomach with foremilk, which is low fat milk that causes gas and watery bowel movements.
Moreover babies inhale air as they nibble on the breast in their sleep. Also if you let them sleep without making them burp after every feed they fill up with painful gas. So you should let your baby feed completely on the first breast. If your baby sleeps on it, slowly lift your baby onto your shoulders and let your baby burp. This will let the air pass out and won't make your baby colicky.
11 Myth : Breastfeeding Moms Get Less Sleep
Recently conducted research does show that breastfeeding moms do get good sleep, in fact they enjoy better sleep than the moms who formula-feed their babies. One good reason being the babies who breastfeed are satisfied, get good bonding with their moms and mothers who do so are also satisfied with that maternal bonding which allows them to get good sleep at night.
You can also have your baby sleep with you as the baby drinks milk from your breast. You can sleep peacefully alongside your baby and you won't have to wake up every now and then to feed your baby. Moreover, if you avoid breastfeeding in the night, you may lose your potential milk production.
10 Myth : Frequently Nursing Means You Become the Pacifier
Comforting and nursing on breasts is natural. Babies nurse not just for food, but also for reasons like thirst, tired, in pain, feeling hurt or lonely, bored, overstimulated, or in the mood for being cuddled, etc.
It's not right to believe that babies only nurse because they're hungry. This can cause problem as you may tend to ward off your baby from frequent nibbling on your breasts. Letting your baby be close to you helps you bond with your baby much better.
9 Myth : Frequent Breastfeedings and Holding Your Baby Too Much Will Spoil Them
Research says babies who are held and nursed frequently, cry fewer hours a day, exhibit secured feelings and go on to be confident, mature and adventurous too. The first early bonding experiences with mother and her baby sets the tone for all future relationships in life. So don't believe that you're some how harming your baby, just happily respond to your baby's needs with love.
8 Myth : Letting Your Baby Fall Asleep at the Breast, Stops Your Baby From Learn to Go to Sleep on Their Own
All children eventually learn to settle themselves to sleep. Babies fall asleep at the breast because nature designed it that way. Nursing is a peaceful and easy way to help our babies and young children settle to sleep during a time when they don't yet have the ability to self soothe.
7 Myth : Breastfeeding Moms Have to be Careful About What They Eat/Drink
Most babies are not troubled with ‘gassy’ or ‘spicy’ foods, caffeine, etc., that their moms eat or drink. Everything in moderation is fine unless your baby’s behaviour is telling you otherwise.
Occasionally, a baby can be fussy to feed on the breast or may also feel gassy after a particular food is had by the mom. If you notice such a pattern, avoid that particular food for a few days to ascertain which food could be the real cause. A breastfeeding mom should eat a balanced diet, but there is absolutely no need to unnecessarily limit your diet or avoid certain foods. A breastfeeding mother does not need to drink milk in order to make milk.
Some moms complained that their babies most often have objected to their consuming on chocolates; citrus fruits like oranges, limes, grapes pineapple and their juices; fruits like cherries, prunes, raw banana, and guavas that have a laxative effect; vegetables that could cause gas like potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, and onion; and spices like garlic, cinnamon, and chili pepper.
Some foods you have to eat less than others
As a breastfeeding mom you can have a daily cup or two of coffee but not more as too much caffeine intake may interfere with your baby's sleep or make him fussy. Tea, soda, and over-the-counter medicines too should be avoided.
Occasional drinking of alcohol is fine but more than one drink could increase your blood alcohol level and in turn get into your breast milk.
6 Myth : You Can't Breastfeed if You’re Under Some Medication
Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, while other medication may not be safe. Generally a small amount of the medicine you're taking may appear in your breast milk and may not be bad, but if a medicine is truly of some concern and may affect your baby, then talk to your doctor.
5 Myth : Sick Moms Shouldn't Breastfeed
Moms can continue to breastfeed, it's believed to actually protect the baby from catching the exact same strain the mother has. Before you even know you're sick and have a fever you would have already passed on your illness to your breastfed baby and the best protection against the baby catching up on any infection is for you to continue breastfeeding.
If your baby happens to fall sick- don't panic, but continue breastfeeding to make your baby feel less sick.
4 Myth : Discontinue Breastfeeding if Your Baby Has Diarrhea or Vomiting
The best treatment for a baby's gut infection (gastroenteritis) is breastfeeding. If your baby is on any other form of liquids or solid foods, then stop those for a short period of time, and continue breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best fluid your baby can have when s/he has diarrhea and/or vomiting.
3 Myth : Breastfeeding Babies Will Need Other Types of Milk After Months
Breast milk is adequate enough to give your baby everything there is in other milks and its forms. You can definitely introduce your baby to some solids when they're older than 6 months old. Introducing your baby to foods after 6 months teaches them how to eat and find another source of iron.
Babies who have never had formula won't accept formula after they're over 6 months. You can give your baby cow’s milk or goat’s milk if you want, along with your breast milk and a wide variety of solid foods.
2 Myth : Breastfeeding Prevents You From Getting Pregnant
You can see many families have babies born with just 10-12 months apart. (I am one such example). So, breastfeeding is not a definite and guaranteed form of birth control.
Experts, however, do believe breastfeeding to be 98% effective as the hormones that are involved in breastfeeding prevent ovulation, thereby restricting your chances to conceive for over a year or so.
But, again, if your menstrual cycle begins within six months from your delivery, you can get pregnant easily.
Avoid taking any heavy-dose birth control pills. Any chemical that enters your system can be routed to the breast milk and won't be safe for your baby. Talk to your doctor if you don’t want another baby right away.
1 Myth : Stop Breastfeeding After Baby Turns Months of Age
Many women believe that the quality of breast milk begins to decline after 6 months. But the composition of human breast milk is such that it changes according to the needs of the baby and his/her maturity.
Even when baby starts on solids, breast milk remains the primary source of nutrition during the first year of your baby's life and would become a supplement to solids during your baby’s 2nd year. Since your baby is growing, s/he would need to be around 2-7 years of age for the immune system to be completely mature.
So breast milk does continue to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it's fed to your growing child.
If you can breast feed your baby from day one, you'll be all set
Breastfeeding is natural, but in today’s world it's not so easy. Marketing formulas has become rampant and unchecked. Moms are made to feel ashamed to nurse their babies in public. Some moms need to work to earn money and run the family and wind up avoiding breastfeeding their babies. Some moms don't breastfeed their babies because they want to maintain their shape and figure.
Sometimes some doctors, nurses, friends and family don't give correct breastfeeding information or tips for proper breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is very important because it's the best start for your baby. So follow your maternal instincts and your baby’s demands to make your breastfeeding experience a successful and enjoyable one!