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 breastfeed the wrong way, making it difficult and painful for her. And this must be avoided at all costs as breastfeeding is very important for the baby’s overall 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 Need Only Be Fed Once Every Few 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 in their initial 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 what time of the day it is. This could mean every single hour to once every few hours so you can kiss your sleep goodbye for a short while (1). Babies are perpetually hungry because their stomach capacity is too little and breastmilk is easy to digest but don’t worry, this doesn’t last forever. As babies develop and grow, they will adapt to a more predictable and convenient schedule.
2. Breastfeeding Is An Easy, Natural Process
New moms, please don’t fall for this one. Breastfeeding is a learned skill and can be a challenge for some mothers initially. Although it is true that breastfeeding is in a mother’s nature, it is also a learned skill that requires practice (2). It can pose many complications and inconveniences along the way. Some mothers are susceptible to experiencing pain in their general breast area, feelings of frustration and exhaustion, and the baby’s weak suckling. Learning to feed can be challenging for some babies, making this process that much harder. To have a healthy and relaxed breastfeeding experience, a mother must experiment with various positions for comfortable breastfeeding. The baby has to 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. The Breasts Take Time To Fill Up After Each Feeding, Hence You Must Wait
Your breasts don’t work like a refill cup so this is false. Breastfeeding regularly keeps the process running smoothly and breastmilk continues to get produced normally (3). The baby’s suckling is what keeps the breast milk production going. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! In addition to this, emptying your breasts during every feeding session will also help you increase milk production.
4. Drinking Milk Produces Breast 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. Mothers have to eat slightly more than usual to gain the energy required to produce milk. Anywhere between 300 to 500 additional calories per day (4). This can come in the form of various protein-rich foods such as eggs, dairy products (including milk), lean meats, low-mercury fish and seafood, and vegetables 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!