10 common myths around breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies who are below 6 months of age and can be continued till 2 years of age, as recommended by World Health Organization (WHO). However, in India, most pieces of advice about breastfeeding come from relatives, friends and even strangers, and are often based on myths rather than facts. Breastfeeding myths of different kinds are traditionally followed in many cultures globally, but have no scientific evidence. So, as a mother, you need the right information when it comes to breastfeeding, as it contributes immensely to your child’s health and development.
Below are the common myths about breastfeeding:-
Myth 1: Colostrum, the thick yellow milk produced right after delivery, should be discarded, as it is bad for the baby.
Fact: Colostrum is known as the “first golden milk”, and is definitely good for babies. It is known as an immunity booster and is nutrient-rich. It also contains antibodies that provide lifelong protection to babies.
Myth 2: Breastfeeding is easy.
Fact: Babies have an inert reflex of sucking and they are born with it, but many mothers need practical support in positioning the baby correctly during breastfeeding. This needs to be done to make sure he or she can correctly latch on to the breast. It is a tedious process which takes time and practice. However, it should be encouraged in young mothers, by giving them enough space and support at home and work.
Myth 3: Sore nipples are inevitable while breastfeeding.
Fact: In the initial days of breastfeeding, most mothers experience discomfort while feeding the baby, and take time to learn how to position him or her. With the right support, guidance, and by making sure that the baby is correctly attached to the breast, sore nipples can be avoided.
Myth 4: Always wash nipples before breastfeeding.
Fact: It is not necessary to wash nipples before breastfeeding. Babies are familiar with their mothers’ distinct smells. Nipples have a distinct smell that comes from “good bacteria”. And this helps babies to develop a healthy immune system for life.
Myth 5: Separate the mother and the newborn to let the mother rest.
Fact: This is one of the biggest breastfeeding myths. In most of the cases, doctors, nurses and midwives often encourage “skin to skin” contact, also referred to as “kangaroo mother care”, immediately after giving birth. It is important to bring the baby in direct contact with the mother, which will help him or her to find and latch on to the breast easily. If you practice this immediately after birth, it aids in establishing a healthy breastfeeding routine. In case the mother is unable to do this, her partner or family member should step in.
Myth 6: Eat simple foods while breastfeeding.
Fact: There is no need to change food habits as babies are exposed to their mother’s food preferences from the time they are in the womb. So, lactating mothers should be eating a balanced diet with the right amounts of calories, vitamins and mineral-rich foods.
Myth 7: Many mothers can’t produce enough milk.
Fact: Almost all mothers produce the right amount of milk for their babies. However, breast milk production is also based on how well the baby is latched onto the breast. It is determined by how frequently the baby is taking milk and how well he or she is positioned. Breastfeeding needs support and ongoing guidance, encouragement from healthcare providers, help at home, and mental and physical fitness.
Myth 8: You should avoid breastfeeding if you are sick.
Fact: It depends on the kind of illness, as mothers can continue breastfeeding even if they are sick. Always make sure that you are getting a balanced diet, rest, and drinking ample water. In many cases, the antibodies which your body makes to treat your illness will pass onto the baby, boosting his or her own immunity.
Myth 9: Breast milk production is less during stress.
Fact: Stress does not prevent or “dry up” the production of milk. However, it may slow down the release of milk from breasts, which can make the baby fussy during breastfeeding. The good news is that breastfeeding produces hormones that have a calming effect on the mother and the baby, which can be helpful at this time.
Myth 10: You cannot take any medication while breastfeeding.
Fact: You can discuss with your doctor about any medication when you are breastfeeding, before taking the same. There are times when taking medication is important, but a specific dosage or an alternative formulation is recommended. You can inform your baby’s paediatrician about the medication you are taking, as well.
In India, there are many myths associated with breastfeeding, which create more problems than solutions for new mothers. Hence, knowing the real truth and finding the right support and guidance are essential during the lactation phase.