Motherhood can be magical and deeply fulfilling, but it is also full of responsibilities. As your baby’s primary caregiver, mothers are tasked with the most important job of feeding the baby. This means breastfeeding the newborn until they are at least 6 months old. But this is easier said than done. Although breastfeeding is an age-old tradition that women have followed since the beginning of time, there are still several misconceptions related to this practice that even women today are susceptible to believing. This can be dangerous as false information can adversely affect both mother and the baby. These beliefs can make the mother abandon breastfeeding early or engage in breastfeeding the wrong way, making it difficult and painful for her. And this must be avoided at all costs as breastfeeding is vital to the baby’s health and an important way to strengthen the bond between mother and child.
Here are 5 misconceptions about breastfeeding you shouldn’t fall prey to:
1. Babies Should Only Be Fed Every 3 Hours
If you have fallen prey to this misconception, I’m sorry but you are sadly mistaken. The truth is babies must feed on demand, especially during the first few weeks. This means that you need to feed your newborn whenever they ask or in this case signal that they need to be fed. This is irrespective of if it’s during the day or at night. This could mean every hour to every 3 hours so you can kiss your sleep goodbye for a short while (1). Newborns are constantly hungry because their stomachs are small and breastmilk is easy to digest but don’t worry, this doesn’t last forever. As your baby develops and grows, they will develop a more predictable schedule.
2. Breastfeeding Is Easy Because It’s Natural
New moms, please don’t fall for this one. Breastfeeding can be difficult as it is learned. Although it is true that breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a skill that is learned over time with practice (2). It can pose many complications and inconveniences along the way. Some mothers are susceptible to experiencing pain in the breast, feelings of frustration and exhaustion, and weak suckling on the baby’s part. Learning to feed can be challenging for some babies, making this process that much harder. To achieve healthy and calm breastfeeding, a mother must experiment with different breastfeeding positions. The baby must be taught to latch onto the nipple for smooth sailing breastfeeding to occur. Consult a breastfeeding expert if necessary. It is integral that your baby feeds well.
3. You Have To Wait Between Feedings For Your Breasts To Fill Up With Milk
Your breasts don’t work like a refill cup so this is false. The best way to produce milk is to breastfeed regularly (3). The breasts produce milk in response to the baby suckling, which means the more baby feeds the more milk you can supply to your little one. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! In addition to this, emptying your breasts at each feeding will also help you increase milk production.
4. You Have To Drink Milk To Produce Milk
No, just no. Although milk can be a part of your diet, the most important contributing factor to your milk production is eating a healthy, well balanced diet. To have the energy and nutrients the body needs in order to produce milk all day and night, mothers have to eat a little more than they usually would. Anywhere between 300 to 500 additional calories per day (4). This can come in the form of various protein-rich foods such as, lean meats, eggs, dairy products (including milk), vegetables and fish and seafood with low mercury content and whole grains. So, it takes a lot more than just milk to get your milk production going.
5. If A Mother Is Ill, She Shouldn’t Breastfeed
This is the furthest thing from the truth. Breastmilk can actually help protect your baby from catching the illness (5). In the case of mild infections and illnesses, the baby would have already been exposed to it before the mother developed noticeable symptoms. So, it is advisable to continue breastfeeding to provide extra protection through breastfeeding. Nowadays there are many medications that are compatible with breastfeeding. So, talk to your doctor and take a course that doesn’t inhibit breastfeeding. Make sure to always consult your primary healthcare physician just to be on the safer side as some medications may be harmful to your child while breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding doesn’t need to be an overwhelming and confusing process. After all, if our ancestors managed it, we can too. But it’s important to not fall prey to these misconceptions as we nurture our babies. Are there any other misconceptions regarding breastfeeding that we’ve missed out on? Let us know in the comments section!