Myths about Breastfeeding

Category: Birth & Beyond

You’ve probably received loads of advice on breastfeeding but how do you separate the truths from the myths?

WORDS MELISSA ESPECKERMAN

It is without doubt that breastfeeding doesn’t come easy to everyone, especially so with everyone around plying you with advice and opinions – all well-meaning of course. While some of the wisdom shared will no doubt come in helpful, chances are much of it won’t. To help you figure out which ones are worth heeding and which ones to toss aside, here are the truths behind some of the most common myths.

 

Myth 1:

Women with flat or inverted nipples cannot breastfeed

 

We’ve all heard this one before but the truth is whether a woman’s nipple are flat or inverted nipples, they all have the ability to breastfeed. Keep in mind that babies do not nipple feed but breastfeed. Baby needs to suckle on the areola to get milk and not the nipples.
 

Kang Phaik Gaik, senior nurse manager and senior lactation consultant at Alvernia Parentcraft Centre, Mount Alvernia Hospital recommends that one start breastfeeding early in the delivery suite when the baby is alert and awake with the strong instinct to suckle at birth. “As long as the baby can grasp a big mouthful of the breast including the areola and nipple, baby can be breastfed well. As the baby feeds, he will draw the nipple out by his sucking action and improve the shape of the nipple.”
 

What you can do:

Kang advises that mums can also help in shaping her breast with the “U” hold when attaching baby onto the breast, so that the areola becomes smaller and the nipple protrudes more to allow baby to grasp the breast well.

 

 

Myth 2:

There is not enough milk during the first three or four days after birth

 

While it may seem the there isn’t enough milk for your baby, the truth is the breasts produce the early milk, colostrum, the first few days after birth. Kang says, “It is the perfect first food for the baby which is thick, sticky and clear to yellowish in colour. Colostrum is rich in protein, immunoglobulin, antibodies, fat soluble vitamins and minerals.”

 

“A well latched baby receives more colostrum. A pump does not work the same in the first few days. It is easier to express colostrum by hand than by pump,” adds Kang.

 

What you can do:

Kang suggests feeding your baby frequently on demand. Baby sucking well on the breasts helps to stimulate the breasts to produce more milk.

 

Myth 3:

If a mother has a caesarean section, she has to wait a day before starting breastfeeding

 

Whether you’ve had a natural delivery or a caesarean birth, early initiation of breastfeeding is just as important. “Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after you have regained consciousness if you have undergone general anaesthesia. If have undergone epidural or spinal anaesthesia for your caesarean section, you can breastfeed immediately after birth. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby in the operating theatre or recovery area can be performed if both you and your baby are well,” advises Cynthia Pang, assistant director of nursing and senior lactation consultant, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. This early contact will encourage your baby to search for the breast and initiate early breastfeeding.

 

If you are on an intravenous drip, things might get a little tricky so Pang suggests asking for assistance when holding and positioning your baby. Having your husband or a family member around would be helpful too. It might be helpful to prop yourself up on your bed or lie on your side to breastfeed your baby. “Once you are able to sit up, you are encouraged to adopt the football hold position when you breastfeed. This will help to keep your baby from causing discomfort to your wound,” recommends Pang.

 

What you can do:

If however, your baby cannot be breastfed for certain reasons, don’t let your precious milk go to waste. Express your breast milk to prevent engorgement and to initiate lactation. This will also ensure that your baby will receive the very valuable colostrum.

 

 

Myth 4:

There is no way to know how much breast milk the baby is getting

 

Sure you can’t tell exactly how many millilitres of milk your bub is drinking but Kang says that mothers usually feel that their breasts are softer and baby is contented after breastfeeding. That’s how you’ll know when your baby has had enough. Also, feeds don’t always take the same amount of time. “Observe how the baby suckles and swallows during breastfeeding and not the clock to know the transfer of milk from the breast to baby. Baby may suck faster to stimulate the ‘let-down effect’, baby sucks slower and deeper while milk is letting down,” says Kang.

 

What you can do:

Keep a count of your baby’s dirty diapers. Baby should have at least six to eight wet diapers and two to five bowel movements every 24 hours after a week old.

 

 

Myth 5:

If babies feed a lot, that means they aren't getting enough milk

 

Again, here’s a myth that we’ve all heard over and over again. Remember, babies grow through growth spurts and that may cause them to feed more. Says Kang, “Babies may feed a lot when they go through growth spurts at two weeks, six weeks, three months and six months old.”

 

What you can do:

Ensure baby is latching well to receive enough milk.

 


Myth 6:

A mother should wash her nipples each time before feeding the baby

 

“You are encouraged to clean your breasts at least once a day for hygiene purposes. However, avoid using soap on your nipple and areola as this may cause dryness to the area,” says Pang.

 

What you can do:

Pang also suggests air drying your nipples after each feed before putting on your clothes and changing the wet nursing pad frequently.

 

 

Myth 7:

A baby should be on the breast 20 minutes on each side

 

The most important thing to remember here is that feeds don’t always take the same amout of time, as mentioned earlier. “Feed your baby according to his needs and allow him to feed for as long as he wants. A healthy baby usually has eight to 10 feeds in a day or, once every two to three hours. Total breastfeeding with no supplement helps to establish your milk supply and reduce the chance of engorgement,” says Pang.

 

What you can do:

“You are encouraged to allow your baby to finish his feed from the first breast and letting him detach himself. Refrain from terminating the feeding by actively removing your baby from your breast. Finishing a feed from each breast is satisfying for your baby because of the high caloric content of hind milk,” advises Pang. While not all babies will need to feed from both breasts, be sure to always offer the second breast to your baby. Also, alternate your breasts for subsequent feeds.

 

Burping your baby after a feed from each breast also helps bring up any wind he may have swallowed if he cried before the feed.

 

 

Myth 8:

Nursing babies shouldn't take an occasional bottle or they may become confused and stop eating.

 

It’s all about the right timing as Pang tells us. “Some mothers are concerned that their babies will become so used to feeding at the breast that they will reject bottle feeds. This can be prevented if you let your baby learn to feed from the bottle after the first four weeks. However, do not introduce the bottle until your baby has learnt to suck well at your breast. Introducing the bottle too early will confuse your baby, as the sucking actions are different.”

 

What you can do:

Knowing the right way to introduce the bottle matters as well. Adds Pang, “When you wish to introduce the bottle to your baby, let your husband or a family member offer the bottle instead to prevent your baby from searching for your breast. You may start to bottle feed your baby with expressed milk once a day when he is one month old. Two weeks before returning to work, slowly increase the frequency according to the number of feeds which your baby will miss while you are at work. This will help your baby gradually adjust to the change.”

 

 

Myth 9

Breastfeeding changes the shape and size of your breasts.

 

While some women have experienced this happening during pregnancy, breastfeeding does not affect the size and shape of your breasts.

 

What you can do:

Kang suggests wearing good support bra during pregnancy and lactating period to prevent the muscles which support the breasts from becoming over-stretched. You can also do some exercises to strengthen the chest muscles.

 

 

Myth 10

Breastfeeding prevents you from getting pregnant. 

 

“Breastfeeding provides safe contraception of 96 – 98 per cent in the first six months, if the mother is exclusively breastfeeding her baby without giving other fluids from birth to the first six months,” shares Kang.

 

While you may not be having your period, keep in mind that your body will usually release its first postpartum egg before you get your first period so these odds can change very quickly.

 

What you can do:

If you’re not yet ready for baby number two, it’s best you use a contraceptive when having sex, even while you’re still breastfeeding.

Thanks for sharing!

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