In continuation with our previous article about the benefits of breastfeeding, here is another article about the myths and facts about on breastfeeding.
If you remember the saying, ‘while truth is tying its shoelaces, false is halfway around the world’ you can understand what we’re trying to say. One can notice that there are a lot of baseless and unscientific fads surrounding breastfeeding. While the facts about breastfeeding are surprisingly not known to people, most people are unfortunately aware about the myths on breastfeeding. This can make matters difficult in helping people to discern between what is true about breastfeeding and what is not.
Image Courtesy: Indian Women’s Health
Here is a list of myths that are more prevalent than the facts on breastfeeding.
Myths and Facts of Breastfeeding
Formula milk is as good as breastmilk: While formula milk has been designed and redesigned over many decades, starting from matching the texture and then to the nutrients found in breastmilk and the minerals and vitamins found in breastmilk, formula milk has come a long way and it is believed that breastmilk can be replaced completely by formula milk.
Fact: While formula milk is very similar to breastmilk in many ways, it still doesn’t match the real thing. Formula milk is similar to breastmilk, but it is not the exact replica. Formula milk lacks all the antibodies, hormones and enzymes that are present in breastmilk.
Breastfeeding can make things complicated for a busy mother: Some people believe that breastfeeding can tie down a mother, especially a busy or a working mother. Breastfeeding can hinder her work. This is true to an extent, but the reality is far more different from the myth.
Fact: Breastfeeding does not hinder a woman’s social life in any way. On the other hand, carrying the formula, the bottles, warm and sterile water and other things are hard to find. But, breastfeeding is much easier. There is no extra preparation needed to make the milk. Not even warming up the milk. The internal mechanism in your body takes care of everything starting from warming up the milk, adding antibodies, enzymes and hormones and also the sterility. In fact, the bottle and the nipple used in formula milk are highly prone to microbial infections than the breasts. And obviously, you don’t need to worry about how your baby is doing.
Breastfeeding can hurt: During the initial few days of breastfeeding, which is not more than a week, breastfeeding can hurt. But, this pain subsides as days pass by. This is relatively common for breastfeeding mothers. This pain can also be mild and very few times abnormal or acute. If the pain does not subside after one week or ten days or if it starts to pain after a while of breastfeeding, it can be an indication of a problem.
Lactating mothers need intervals between breastfeeding: Some people believe that lactating mothers need to have frequent intervals between each breastfeeding session so that the milk is replenished.
Fact: This is not true. A lactating mother’s system is such that it is producing milk always and storing them in the breasts. On the other hand, the more frequent the breastfeeding sessions are the more milk is produced and the less frequent the breastfeeding sessions are the slower the milk production would be.
It will be difficult to lose weight while breastfeeding: It is also believed that during breastfeeding, it would be very difficult for the mother to lose those extra pounds of weight gained during pregnancy.
Fact: The fact is quite opposite. A lactating mother can gradually burn between 300 – 500 calories per day, simply by breastfeeding. It takes energy to produce milk and if the milk sac is empty, the production of milk continues. When the milk sac is not empty or full, the production of milk gradually slows down and stops.
Women with small breasts produce less milk: This belief does not make any sense. Milk production has nothing to do with the size of the breasts. In some cases, small sized breasts produce large quantities of breastmilk which is more than enough for the baby.
Night feeding is not necessary: Yet another myth on breastfeeding is that a mother can avoid breastfeeding her baby during the night time.
Fact: Night time feeding is as important or in other words, more important than day time feeding. Feeding during the night time produces a hormone known as prolactin, which promotes milk production is active during the night time. Hence, night feeding shouldn’t be neglected.
If the mother is not well, she shouldn’t breastfeed: Another myth surrounding breastfeeding is that a mother with an infection shouldn’t breastfeed, as there is a danger of spreading the infection to the baby.
Fact: Apart from few exceptions, even a sick mother can breastfeed her baby without any fear of spreading infections. As the mother is already suffering from the infection, the antibodies in the mother’s body enter into the baby via breastmilk and be on the vigil to fight off the infection causing microbes. Thus, it is perfectly alright to breastfeed your baby, unless your doctor advices otherwise.
A smoking mother should not breastfed her baby: There is a belief that if a lactating mother is smoking, the harmful chemicals that have already entered into the mother’s body will enter into the baby’s body.
Fact: If a mother cannot cut down on smoke, then it is better not to avoid breastfeeding because it is actually beneficial for the baby who is breastfed by a smoking mother because breastmilk reduces the effect of second-hand smoke on the baby’s lungs.
If the baby is suffering from diarrhea or vomiting, you should avoid breastfeeding: It is also believed that breastfeeding a sick baby can worsen the condition.
Fact: When a baby is suffering from diarrhea or vomiting or both, it is advised to breastfeed the baby because breastmilk is the only fluid that your baby can sustain while suffering from diarrhea or vomiting. It is advised to avoid other foods during diarrhea and vomiting. Breastmilk is the best medicine for any gastric problems that a baby faces. There are few exceptions, but they are very rare. Heavy marketing to use oral rehydration solutions during infantile diarrhea or vomiting is just a commercial gimmick that pharmaceuticals make.
A lactating mother who receives vaccinations should stop breastfeeding for sometime: It is believed that the vaccines going into the baby can have a harmful effect.
Fact: This is not true. The amount of vaccines entering into the baby’s system through breastmilk is less. Even if the medicine enters, it wouldn’t be harmful, but it can be beneficial to the baby as well.
Breastfeeding in public is not decent and it can be embarrassing: There are some people who believe that breastfeeding in public is not decent or is embarrassing on the grounds that it can influence children in a wrong way. This is in fact, an act of humiliation of mothers. In fact, it can be educating children about the role of a woman’s breasts and in turn develop respect for women in the long run. Remember, we are nurturing babies to become good citizens in the future.
Women who undergo breast surgeries both cosmetic and otherwise shouldn’t breastfeed: Another belief surrounding breastfeeding is that if a woman who undergoes any kind of breast surgery including cosmetic surgeries shouldn’t be breastfeeding. The silicone implants might affect milk production.
Fact: Breast surgeries, both cosmetic and otherwise are designed in such a way that they do not affect milk production. So, there is no reason to worry.
Breastfeeding increases the risk of colic: Some people also believe that breastfeeding can lead to colic in babies.
Fact: It is not breastfeeding that leads to colic, but it is the way in which the baby latches on to the breast is what develops into colic or gassiness. This can be avoided by correct posture of the mother and the baby. The baby might not be able to latch on to the breast immediately. He needs time. A few days down the line, your baby, most probably should be able to latch on to the breast perfectly.
Doctors and pediatricians in particular, know a lot about breastfeeding: This belief is not true completely.
Fact: There is not much in medical school’s curriculum that teaches them about breastfeeding. Even in the case of pediatrician, it is true. In fact, breastfeeding is thought as a hindrance to the medical care.