Debunking Breastfeeding Myths

“While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for baby. – Amy Spangler”

There is plenty of helpful information about breastfeeding as well as plenty of misinformation that would hinder successful breastfeeding. Below are some common myths that need to be corrected.

Myth 1 – Breastfeeding will come naturally

Breastfeeding is natural and normal but not necessarily easy! 92% of new mothers had at least one concern on the third day of breastfeeding (eg. poorlatching, low milk supply, breast pain) (Pediatrics 2013). Unfortunately, most mothers are discharged 2 days after delivery and the period immediately after delivery is the most challenging for breastfeeding. Mothers can get help from a breastfeeding support group or a lactation consultant.

Myth 2 – Pain is normal

Breastfeeding is not always painful. There may be an initial tingling sensation but if baby is properly latched, it should not hurt. Mothers are taught holding positions for bottle feeding. Try reclining with the baby’s weight against the mother’s body.

Myth 3 – Need to top up as your milk supply is low

For the first 3 to 5 days after delivery, mothers do not produce much milk but they produce a thick concentration of liquid (colostrum) that the newborn needs. At birth, the fullterm newborn’s stomach is the size of a marble (5 ml) and grows gradually in a week to the size of a chicken’s egg (20ml).

As a lactating mother’s breast is always making milk, thus the emptier the breast, the faster milk is produced to replace it. If a mother consistently waits until her breasts ‘fill up’ before she nurses, her body may get the message that it is making too much milk and may reduce the total production.

Myth 4 – Your new born will feed every two to three hours with each feed lasting for 30 minutes

Frequency of feeding will vary according to the mother’s milk supply, storage capacity and baby’s developmental needs. Growth spurts and illnesses can temporarily change baby’s feeding patterns.

During breastfeeding, the initial portion of the breastmilk (foremilk) has a lower caloric level compared to the latter portion of the breast milk (hindmilk), which is higher in fat content. Hence, putting arbitrary limits on frequency and duration of breastfeeding may lead to inadequate caloric intake. In other words, milk production has been shown to be related to feeding frequency, and milk supply declines when feedings are infrequent or restricted.

Myth 5 – Never wake a sleeping baby

Newborns should be awakened to drink, if necessary, at least 8 times a day. In fact, newborns who experience early skin-to-skin* contact immediately after birth for at least one hour (‘The Golden Hour’) are more likely to latch on well, especially if the mother did not receive medication during the labour or birth. It has been shown that separation, results in delayed response to feeding; exhibiting shutdown behaviour which in turn can affect feeding. (*baby naked, not wrapped up in blanket and place on mother’s chest or abdomen)

Myth 6 – A bottle or pacifier can create

nipple confusion

It is not so much ‘confusion’ but ‘preference’! Even though it would be easier to suck milk from a bottle compared to suckling from the breast, early introduction of a bottle or pacifier before breastfeeding is well-established is discouraged as breast and bottle feeding require different oral motor skills. Rubber or silicon nipples provide a type of ‘super stimulus’ that can result in inappropriate sucking technique on the breast when babies switch between breast and bottle.

Myth 7 – You cannot breastfeed if you had

breast surgery

Women with breast implants have been able to lactate successfully especially if incisions were made on the underside of the breast. Women with breast reduction may have more difficulty especially if the nerve endings around the nipple have been cut. (American Soc. of Plastic Surgeon, 2011)

Myth 8 – Breastfeeding helps to lose weight

Breastfeeding helps to lose 300-500 calories per day but your body needs energy (read: calories) to create breast milk. It is recommended that a few hundred extra calories are taken during the breastfeeding period.

Breastfeeding mothers may actually gain weight as many of them commonly experience ravenous hunger while feeding. Together with hormonal (prolactin) changes it can lead them to hang on to pregnancy weight or gain more weight. Hence, mothers should try improving the quality of the food and snacks and keeping up with fluid intake for weight control.

Myth 9 – Women who breastfeed get less sleep

Sleep deprivation is an inevitable part of having a baby which begins during pregnancy, when sleep needs may increase due to discomfort and frequent trips to the bathroom which interfere with a full night’s sleep. This is compounded in the postpartum period.

Studies have shown that not only do breastfeeding mothers get more sleep, but the sleep they get is of better quality when baby is in proximity to the mother. It was shown that breastfeeding mothers who bedshare got the most sleep. Mothers who were bottle feeding got the same amount of sleep whether their babies were with them or in another room. (Quillin & Glenn 2004).

Myth 10 – Breastfeeding is birth control

Breast feeding can be an effective birth control ONLY if certain conditions are met: such as baby is younger than 6 months of age, exclusive breastfeeding (no supplemental feeds of water, formula) only, mother has not started having periods. With these factors, the mother has a more than 98% protection against pregnancy.

As soon as there is a decline in breastfeeding, due to the baby eating supplemental feedings or nursing less often, the contraceptive protection decreases.

‘Breastfeeding is an instinctual and natural act, but it is also an art that is learned day by day. The reality is that all women can breastfeed, have enough milk for their babies and learn how to overcome problems both large and small. It is almost always simply a matter of practical knowledge and not a question of good luck.’ – La Leche League

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