It is a well-known fact that breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby. Not only does it help meet the nutritional needs of the baby, but also creates a bond between mother and child. As such, “WHO and UNICEF recommend that children start breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids provided, including water,” reads the World Health Organization’s website.
But, as with all other things, there are many myths surrounding the same thing – from breastfeeding making breasts saggy to larger breasts producing more milk. But is there any truth?
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Dr. Radhamany K, Clinical Professor and Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Amrita Hospital spoke to indianexpress.com and busted various myths surrounding breastfeeding.
#Bigger breasts produce more milk
The size of the breast depends on the amount of fatty tissue present in the boobs. Women with smaller breasts have less fatty tissue and those with larger breasts have more fatty tissue. “Regardless of breast size, all women are fully capable of producing a healthy supply of breast milk because breast milk is produced by glandular tissue, not fatty tissue,” Dr. Radhamany said.
“However, women with smaller breasts may have to breastfeed more often due to the lesser amount of milk the breast tissue can hold,” she added.
#Breastfeeding causes breasts to sag
According to Dr. Radhamany, breastfeeding does not affect the shape or size of the breast. The breasts are affected by the natural increase in fullness during pregnancy and the decrease in weight soon after. However, they remain enlarged while breastfeeding. “After feeding, the breast slowly decreases in volume. The ligaments that support a woman’s chest stretch as she becomes heavier during pregnancy. After pregnancy, even if a woman is not breastfeeding, stretching of the ligaments can contribute to breast sagging,” she advised.
#You cannot take medication if you are breastfeeding
“About 15% of the drug is typically transferred through breast milk, of which only 1-2% is absorbed by the infant,” she said. According to Dr. Radhamany, paracetamol, asthma inhalers, vitamins and most antibiotics are completely safe to take while breastfeeding. However, codeine, nasal decongestants, aspirin, herbal medicines, anticancer drugs, oral retinoids, iodine, amiodarone, statins, amphetamines, ergotamines (anti-migraine agents) should be avoided.
“Feeding the baby just before the mother takes medication results in the baby receiving the lowest possible drug concentration. The risk of drug toxicity is higher in premature and sick infants, but rare in infants older than six months,” she said.
#The sick woman should not breastfeed
Dr Radhamany said breastfeeding can be continued if the mother develops flu, fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and mastitis. “Also, an added benefit is that it can transfer protective antibodies. In conditions like HIV, T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II (HTLV-1/2), breastfeeding against Ebola virus is contraindicated. The following are the conditions in which the mother may not be able to breastfeed, for example: urosepsis, sepsis, pneumonia, PPH, shock and those requiring intensive care,” he said. she adds.
#Breastfeeding will prevent you from getting pregnant
“Ovulation can occur in about 50% of breastfeeding women despite having amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Appropriate precautions should therefore be taken. They remain amenorrheic if ovulation does not occur,” she said.
“Breastfeeding as birth control is called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method. When done perfectly, this method can be about as effective as hormonal contraceptives. Breastfeeding will not prevent pregnancy if the baby is fed formula in addition to breast milk. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method has a failure rate of less than 2%. Formula feeding, pumping instead of breastfeeding, and solid feeding the baby all reduce the effectiveness of lactational amenorrhea as birth control,” she added.