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Breastfeeding – Myths and Facts

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: Breastfeeding involves several food restrictions. Mother must eat only bland foods while breastfeeding.

Fact: It’s important for women who breastfeed to eat healthy, balanced meals. However, it’s false to think that they must reduce or increase their consumption of certain foods. It’s possible for babies to be affected by food their mother eats, but this is unusual. Also, it shouldn’t be assumed that breastfeeding requires mothers to drink more water of milk. Mothers who breastfeed don’t need to drink more milk to produce it. In terms of water, it’s true that drinking it promotes better health. However, there’s no specified number of glasses of water to drink if you are breastfeeding—simply drink until you are satisfied.

Myth: You Have to Wash Your Nipples before You Breastfeed

Not at all! Breastfeeding is different than bottle feeding for many reasons, so this myth comes from the use of bottles. You must wash bottle nipples before you use them because they can harbor bacteria which can contaminate infant formula or pumped breast milk. But, it isn’t the same for breastfeeding. Putting the baby to the breast actually helps to prevent infection. Aside from the fact that washing your nipples before every feeding adds about 12 extra steps to your day, it also takes away important oils from the Montgomery glands that lubricate and protect from the nipple.

Myth: You need to nurse every 2 hours around the clock to make sure your baby gets enough.

Fact: Just like adults, babies too have their own individual eating patterns. Most babies fall into the routine of feeding once every 2 hours. “Watch the baby and not the clock”. Feed your baby on demand. One way to look whether your baby is feeding enough is to observe their output ie; 6 wet diapers and 2 – 3 stools per day is an indicator of healthy baby.

Also better your child is latched on to your nipple, longer and adequately he or she will feed. Breast milk is also ideal for preterm babies.

Myth: Most women don’t produce enough milk

Fact: In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The majority of women produce enough milk to nourish more than one baby. Milk production is based on the law of supply and demand—the more baby demands, the more the mother will produce. However, it’s important to ensure that the baby latches on to the breast properly. In some circumstances, milk production may be insufficient—it may have been low from the start or have diminished suddenly for various reasons (i.e. due to medication that diminishes lactation or due to health problems). If this happens, talk to a health professional specialized in breastfeeding.

Myth: Babies must learn to drink from the bottle. You must always introduce the bottle before the baby refuses to take it.

Fact: Although several parents decide to introduce the bottle for various reasons, it isn’t necessary that a baby learn to drink from it. It’s more important to concentrate on starting to breastfeed. After that, it’ll be possible to occasionally introduce the bottle if you wish to. Giving the bottle when breastfeeding isn’t going well isn’t always a good idea. This may even complicate things. It’s preferable to consult a health professional who is specialized in breastfeeding to get help and to make an informed decision about it.

Myth: If I’m ill, it’s imperative that I stop breastfeeding.

Fact: In the majority of cases of common infections, there’s no reason to stop breastfeeding. If ever you must take medication, it’s important to mention to your doctor and your pharmacist that you are breastfeeding. Many medications are safe to take while you’re breastfeeding—however, it’s important to find out what they are. The same goes for over-the-counter medication and natural health products you can get at the pharmacy. Talk to your pharmacist before taking them. What happens if you must have an operation? Most times, you can start breastfeeding again as soon as you feel well enough to do so. It’s important to talk to the medical team about it, but it’s totally doable.

Myth: Don’t wake a sleeping baby to breastfeed.

Fact: Unless your baby is older than three months and a well-established breast feeder, this statement is not true. In the first couple of days after birth, your baby will sleep a lot. In order to create a regular breastfeeding routine and provide your baby with the necessary energy, you need to wake up your sleeping baby. Allowing a baby to continue to sleep and have longer periods of time between feedings could actually make them sleepier, and this can become a problem. In the days following birth, mothers need to wake their baby, provide them with nutrition and establish a feeding routine.

Myth– Breastfeeding is a reliable form of birth control.

Fact: Even if you exclusively breastfeed, ovulation and chance of becoming pregnant start after 3 months of delivery. So consult before that for contraception.

Mothers who breastfeed burn around 300 to 500 extra calories per day as compared to those who give formula feed and researches have shown that they do tend to slim down faster.

The experience of breastfeeding is different for every mother.

I hope the above facts help you with your breastfeeding experience and answer any questions you have.

Myth: If you give your baby bottles of pumped milk, she will refuse the breast.

Fact: Most babies switch between breast and bottle with no problem. “As long as you wait until your baby has mastered breastfeeding (usually at about six weeks) before you offer her a bottle, she should be willing to switch back and forth. However, those women who limit their babies to one bottle per day tend to have less of a struggle.


Article by:

Dr. Geethanjali,

Consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology,

Mehta Multispecialty Hospitals

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