10 Common Myths About Breastfeeding22 June 2023 | After Your Baby is Born | By Katerina K.
The myths about breastfeeding are probably as old as humankind. They can vary according to the habits, traditions, and way of living of each culture. They have also changed over time.
Here are the top 10 myths around breastfeeding and the corresponding answers provided by Katerina Koukaki, who is a volunteer leader for La Leche League International. Originally from Greece, Katerina has two kids and provides postpartum support to Berlin families as a trained doula.
(Please note that most of these apply mainly to the first few weeks, while the last two are also relevant later on.)
1. If my baby loses weight after birth, it means that my milk is not enough, and I have to supplement him with formula.
The truth: The milk production starts after the birth of the placenta. So, whether you had a vaginal birth or a c-section, the milk is produced after the removal of the placenta. The “first milk” is called colostrum, it’s less in quantity, thicker than the milk which will come later, more yellowish, and it contains antibodies that protect your baby from the bacteria he’s exposed to in the outside world.
It is very common for babies to lose 10% of their weight the first days after birth (usually during the days that they spend at the hospital). This is normal, but it is expected that the baby has regained his birth weight plus around 200 grams by the second week of his life. Your midwife will do regular weight checks and can answer any questions or concerns you may have about this.
2. I don’t have enough milk.
The truth: The milk is not stored in your breast and waiting for the baby to drink it. The milk is produced according to the baby’s needs. And, to be more precise, according to your baby’s needs. This is why ideally, the baby should breastfeed on demand, without clocks and schedules. Research has shown that the more often a baby drinks from the breast, the more milk will be produced.
3. You should breastfeed your baby 15 minutes from each breast.
The truth: In nature, no mammal is keeping track of how much and from which breast their little one drinks. As each baby is different, it might take longer to learn how to breastfeed efficiently, and also, some babies tend to suck faster than babies who may be “slow eaters”. How much milk a baby will drink is also connected to the milk flow of the mother. So my recommendation would be to observe your baby. You can then learn his habits and his needs and trying to respond to them.
4. I should breastfeed my baby every 3 hours.
The truth: While this might be true for exclusively formula-fed babies, it is not true for breastfed babies. Especially during the first weeks, when breastfeeding is not yet established, and the milk supply is not yet balanced, it is recommended to follow the hunger cues of the baby and to breastfeed on demand. The goal is to breastfeed your baby at least 10-12 times per 24 hours. And how will you know that our baby is drinking enough milk? He is gaining weight and has plenty of wet and dirty diapers daily.
5. If I hold, carry, rock, or sleep with my baby, I will spoil him.
The truth: The human species has survived because hundreds of mothers before us held, carried, and slept with their babies over the centuries. The babies are born with the need for human contact. It takes some weeks for them to realize that they are separated from their mothers and that they are not one person anymore (crazy but true!).
Having your baby close to you helps you get to know each other, observe each other, and understand each other. It also keeps your baby warm and regulates his breath. Also, a baby whose needs for closeness are satisfied will probably cry less and become a more confident child and adult. Lastly, a baby’s brain has not yet developed any skill like getting spoiled or manipulating anyone. Your baby is exactly what you see, no hidden truths there.
6. Never wake up a sleeping baby.
The truth: Although most babies will wake up and make their need for milk quite clear, some other babies might prefer to sleep, and they will not wake up very often to breastfeed. It is important to remember that a breastfed baby, especially during the first weeks, should drink at least every 2 hours per day and at least every 3 hours per night. This is so that he is hydrated and so that you keep your milk supply.
A sleepy baby might not wake up because of jaundice, because of the medication that was used during the labor, because he is sucking on the pacifier, or because he gave up if no one responds to his needs. Make sure that your baby is waking up often enough in the early days and weeks. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact your midwife or pediatrician.
7. I should not allow my baby to use me as a pacifier.
The truth: Babies are born with the need to suck. It’s in their nature and part of their survival instinct. The pacifiers came as a means of comforting the babies when women had to go to work and could not stay close to their babies. They came as a substitute for the breast.
The best way to comfort a baby is to keep him close and to put him on the breast. It has been proven that breastfeeding babies develop their jaw, their mouth, and facial muscles differently.
Keeping your baby on the breast, although he is sucking but not actively drinking, promotes breastfeeding and helps you establish your milk supply. Keep in mind that breastfeeding is not only about food, it’s about comfort, feeling safe, and connecting.
8. At the beginning, breastfeeding hurts. It’s normal.
The truth: While that might be true, especially for first-time mothers during the very first days of their breastfeeding journey, it should not hurt. Mothers don’t have to endure the pain.
Painful breastfeeding is usually a sign that something is not exactly right. Usually, it’s either the position the baby is breastfeeding or the way the baby is latching. Getting the right support before things get very difficult is very important.
9. A breastfeeding mom should watch her diet and avoid certain foods that are suspicious for causing colic.
The truth: There is no reason for a mother to follow a specific diet or to exclude some foods that she likes while she’s breastfeeding. If you are generally eating healthy food and you are getting all the necessary vitamins, you don’t have to worry much, and you don’t have to change anything in your eating habits.
If you see that a specific food is causing fussiness to your baby, you can avoid that food for some days and observe what happens. The same goes for foods that you are allergic to; if you always avoided them, you can continue doing so.
Breastfeeding should not be seen as a journey full of obstacles and challenges but rather as a natural stage that comes after pregnancy, and it can be continued without changing your cultural food habits.
10. I should not take any medication while breastfeeding
The truth: If you are already a breastfeeding mother, you might have noticed that in the small leaflet that is included in the package of the medications, the instructions are almost always to be cautious or even against pregnant and breastfeeding moms taking it. However, there are many reliable resources where you can find more accurate information.
As a general rule, before taking any medication, it would be wise to discuss it with your doctor. The truth is that there are very few medications that are non-compatible with breastfeeding. Before you consider temporarily weaning or completely stopping breastfeeding because of a medication you have to take, it is recommended to do some further research. Some reliable websites you can use are e-lactancia.com and http://embryotox.de/einfuehrung.html
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