Lactation education

10 breastfeeding myths debunked by a lactation expert

Breastfeeding is the optimal source of nutrition for babies. Breastmilk, also commonly known as “Liquid Gold”, is the elixir that saves and sustains the lives of all babies. But there are always clashes between the old school of breastfeeding thought and the modern notions that are present with technological advancements. Let’s break down some of the prevalent breastfeeding myths to raise awareness among mothers and grandmothers.

Myth 1: Breastfeeding is always painful.

Breastfeeding should never be painful. The mother should feel a slight pulling sensation in the breast tissue. Any sort of pain while breastfeeding is usually linked to improper latching technique in which the baby’s gums squeeze the mother’s nipples. For breastfeeding to be completely comfortable, the mother must ensure that the baby’s gums are on the areola (darker area around the nipple) and not just on the nipple. The baby must be able to take as much of the areola in the mouth to get a good latch. A lactation consultant can help a mother identify a good breastfeeding position and advise her on how to properly latch the baby to the breast to avoid sore nipples.

Myth 2: Breasts need to rest for 2-3 hours between feedings to be full enough

Breast milk production does not work on schedule. During the first few days after childbirth, breast milk production relies on hormones (endocrine control) and then switches to a cycle of supply and demand (autocrine control). This basically means that most mothers who breastfeed their babies as soon as possible after birth, regardless of delivery mode (normal or caesarean section), will produce colostrum from birth until 72 hours postpartum. then move on to transitional milk production after 72 hours. This is indicated by the onset of abundant milk production, heavy and full breasts, milk leaks, etc. This is then followed by the production of mature white milk in around 5-7 days. Mature milk is also the milk that mothers will produce until they eventually stop breastfeeding.

Mothers should know that as long as the baby suckles with an optimal latch, the breasts are never empty. The baby’s sucking reflex helps in the production of milk. So if the baby was fed only 20 minutes ago and is asking to be fed again, there is no reason for the mother to panic that there will be no milk for the baby.

Breastfeeding has multiple benefits for both mother and child. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth 3: The left breast contains water and the right breast contains food. Thus, every mother should breastfeed more on the right breast and just a little on the left with each feeding.

Breast milk production is definitely a miraculous feat and is a mother’s superpower. However, the above statement is false. It comes from the old days when mothers received such suggestions. Thanks to advances in science, we know that the milk produced in both breasts is the same. What new moms actually need to know is that when heavy milk production begins, the milk that arrives at the start of each feed is slightly watery (milk before) and is supposed to take care of the baby’s thirst.

The milk that comes when the breast is slightly empty is more fatty (Hind milk) and takes care of the baby’s hunger and helps with weight gain. This means that mothers should not change breasts frequently during the same feed. The rule now is that mothers should allow babies to effectively drain one breast before offering the other breast. Some babies can be full by drinking from one breast. Some babies can feed from both breasts in one feeding. So it would be convenient to say here that the baby can decide how much milk to take in one sitting.

Myth 4: Babies should only be fed for a period of 20 minutes and no more, to avoid overfeeding.

When healthy, full-term babies are breastfed, they are in perfect control of their condition. They will drink as much as they need. Many babies in the early days may nurse longer during a particular session, while at 2-3 months of age they drink for a brief period of 2-9 minutes per session.

There is no fixed rule regarding the duration of breastfeeding. Some babies may not actively suckle and may actually sleep on the breast, which can be considered as many mothers as the prolonged duration of breastfeeding. It’s a good idea at the start of breastfeeding to watch for swallowing sounds that tell the mother that the baby is actively drinking from the breast. The duration of a feed may vary with each feed depending on how hungry the baby is. Besides the nutritional component of breastfeeding, parents and caregivers need to understand that babies receive everything at the breast: warmth, nourishment and comfort!! So, part of breastfeeding is also known as comfort feeding or soothing feeding and is completely normal!

Breastfeeding tips
Each child’s breastmilk needs may be different. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth 5: Most mothers will not be able to produce enough milk for their babies, especially with twins or higher multiples.

The production of breast milk is a cycle of supply and demand. Factors such as frequent breastfeeding with a good latch, efficient emptying of the breast help to establish and maintain good milk supply. Mothers of twins or triplets, however, need immense support from other family members in addition to good nutrition. Support from family members, health care providers and mother support groups can give mothers the determination and motivation to breastfeed easily and exclusively for the first 6 months and continue breastfeeding for a year and beyond. .

Myth 6: It is not possible to breastfeed after a caesarean because mothers lie on their backs and are unable to move comfortably.

Being on her back can make it difficult for the mother to breastfeed independently. However, if supported by trained nurses and lactation consultants, breastfeeding is easy. Babies can be placed next to the mother on a pillow so that they are at breast level. Babies can also be breastfed by being placed over or across the mother’s shoulder. If the mother is unable to move comfortably due to other complications, the lactation consultant can creatively position the baby using breastfeeding pillows. When the mother sits up after delivery and is too weak to hold the baby in her arms to breastfeed, she can be guided to breastfeed in the football position in which the baby is supported with help of pillows.

How to put your baby to the breast
Learn how to put the baby to the breast properly. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth 7: The mother’s diet plays a very important role in breastfeeding or the baby may have stomach pains.

This is one of the most common misconceptions and it is also one of the reasons why a breastfeeding mother is forced to consume a very restricted diet. Most new mothers are told by family elders that if the mother consumes gassy foods, it could lead to gas and colic in babies. A mother is also systematically advised not to breastfeed immediately after a bath because the temperature of the milk would have changed. Parents of the new generation should be assured that these are absolute myths and that the new mother should eat a varied and balanced diet in moderation, unless she has other complications such as high blood pressure. or pregnancy-related diabetes that warrant dietary restriction. New studies indeed show that if the breastfeeding mother has a varied diet then the acceptance of the same foods by the baby after 6 months is easier and better.

Myth 8: Breastfeeding and bottle-expressed breastmilk are the same thing

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are not the same and never can be. Yes, when the mother is unavailable to breastfeed or the baby is unable to latch directly on and suckle for any reason, giving expressed breast milk is the next best option. However, when the baby sucks naturally, the baby’s saliva coming into contact with the nipple is what signals the brain to produce the milk composition the baby’s body needs. Thus, if a baby with diarrhea is breastfeeding, the milk produced by its mother will be rich in electrolytes to compensate for losses through diarrhea. Expressing breast milk using a breast pump may be helpful for some mothers, but is not a general rule for all mothers to increase their milk supply.

Many mothers are suggested to stop breastfeeding and give expressed milk by bottle in order to let the father or partner participate in the feeding process. The father or partner may be involved in ways of giving skin-to-skin contact and helping and supporting the mother when breastfeeding by positioning the baby and may also help burp or swaddle or massage the baby. The act of bottle feeding expressed milk or formula can interfere with the breastfeeding process as the baby can get used to the longer, larger nipples of bottles and the rapid flow of milk without the effort of suckling . Sucking a bottle and sucking a mother’s breasts are profoundly different and can potentially cause nipple confusion leading to early termination of breastfeeding.

Using the breast pump
Do you use a breast pump? Do it right! Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth 9: Any breastfeeding mother can easily assess her milk supply using a breast pump.

This is an upcoming trend among tech savvy to assess milk production. New parents and even some healthcare providers need to understand that babies and breast pumps are not the same thing. In fact, normal, healthy, full-term babies are the best breast pumps! When a baby is breastfed, the mother’s body relaxes, she produces oxytocin which helps her to have an unequivocal bond with her little one. A breast pump can never match that. Exclusively or mainly breastfeeding mothers can never gauge their supply in a single pumping session as they may be unable to pump out a significant amount. Breast pumps can only be used to assess the mother’s milk supply when the mother exclusively expresses her milk and follows a schedule of pumping sessions and begins to worry about the production when she sees amounts of milk less and less with each consecutive pumping session.

Myth 10: Breasts and nipples should be cleaned before and after each feeding

The darker region around the nipples, also known as the areola, produces fluid that smells similar to amniotic fluid. This fluid contains “good bacteria” and also helps moisturize the areola and nipples. The mother is not required to clean the breasts or nipples before and after feeding, as continued cleaning actually dries out the nipple and areolar tissue.