World Breastfeeding Week: 8 Common Breastfeeding Myths

Regardless of our progress or the changes that occur around us, breastfeeding is an ancient practice that is a mainstay of life-sustaining nutrition. This contributes not only to the development of the child, but also to the mother. Even though breastfeeding is an ancient practice that benefits both mother and child, there are still several breastfeeding myths.

Richa Bathla, Lactation Consultant and Women’s Health Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Faridabad, spoke to Health Shots about 8 breastfeeding myths you should stop believing.

Myths about breastfeeding to stop believing them!

Myth 1: Breastfeeding is easy

Breastfeeding takes time, support and practice for both mothers and babies. A mother needs support and space both at work and at home, as breastfeeding is a time-consuming process. As babies are born to latch on to their mothers, many mothers need practical support to position their baby for breastfeeding and to ensure the baby is properly attached to the breast. We may have seen many mothers looking flawless when feeding their babies, which seems quite natural and easy, but the fact is that breastfeeding is not always easy for all mothers.

Breastfeeding may seem easy, but it’s not for all mothers. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Myth 2: You should wash your nipples before breastfeeding

It is very necessary to take care of your nipples while breastfeeding, but it is not necessary to wash your nipples before breastfeeding. The small bumps (Montgomery glands) on the nipples produce oil which moisturizes and protects the nipples. In fact, the use of soaps and gels can remove this natural oil causing irritation and dryness. What you should do is wash your hands before breastfeeding rather than washing your breasts every time. You can use water to clean your nipples while you shower to maintain good hygiene, but avoid using any type of soap, talc, or perfume to clean them.

Myth 3: It is normal to have pain while breastfeeding

Many mothers experience discomfort or pain in the first few days after giving birth, believing it to be natural or normal while breastfeeding. Attention should be paid to attachment when we talk about sore or cracked nipples that occur due to improper attachment. With the help of a lactation consultant or other professionals, attachment and positioning can be corrected so mothers can avoid problems such as sore nipples or cracked nipples.

Myth 4: Separate mother and baby so mother can relax

It is very important to give the baby skin contact or kangaroo mother care (KMC) immediately after birth. Maximum skin-to-skin contact induces the secretion of oxytocin which ultimately aids in the release of milk production (prolactin). So more skin-to-skin contact means more milk production. It also helps regulate body temperature, prevent weight loss and helps the baby fight infections. The maximum bedroom should therefore be carried out for 24 hours immediately after birth.

Myth 5: You should not breastfeed if you are sick

If a mother suffers from an infection like fever, cough and cold, she should continue to breastfeed because antibodies will be passed to the baby through food, which will prevent him from getting infected. It will also boost the baby’s immunity. However, mothers with conditions such as tuberculosis (TB), Covid-19 and HIV should follow the advice of a lactation consultant or other feeding professionals. It is also necessary to follow advice at the right time so that the diet can be continued, if not directly, then at least by other possible means.

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Myth 6: You can’t take any medication while breastfeeding

It is very important to tell your doctor about any medications if your mother is breastfeeding. One should be properly advised on the proper dosage and time of taking the drug. However, any medicine in the blood will, to some extent, transfer into breast milk. Some drugs do this at a certain level and pose no risk to infants, while others are present at higher levels in breast milk. Some medications are safe and some are not while breastfeeding. In this case, a healthcare professional may recommend alternative medicines or use medications that do not affect milk production too much during breastfeeding. In certain conditions where breast-feeding must be temporarily interrupted, breast milk may then be expressed and stored and this stored expressed milk may be given once the mother starts taking this medicine.

breastfeeding myths
Find out if you can take medication while breastfeeding. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

Myth 7: If the mother returns to work, she must wean her baby

One can continue to breastfeed even after going to work. For this one, you need to check the workplace policies and also need the support of your family members. If a mother has adequate time and space at her workplace to breastfeed, she can go home or breastfeed her child or give expressed milk to her baby at home. If a mother does not have the opportunity to breastfeed during working hours, she can find the right place where she can express her milk and give it to her baby or feed her directly if she is at home. Expressed milk is a good option, especially for those who work, because this milk can be stored directly at room temperature for 5-6 hours, then later, if not used, it can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Myth 8: Many mothers cannot produce enough milk

All mothers produce the right amount of milk for their baby. The amount of milk produced depends on how often the baby is put to the breast, the length of the feed and the frequency of feedings during a day. Appropriate support, such as breastfeeding counseling from health care providers, proper nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle, affect milk production. Another important factor is stress, as it directly or indirectly affects milk production. A mother should never panic even if she has a premature baby and she is unable to feed her baby. Correct advice from the health care provider can help to start breastfeeding at the right time at regular intervals, either directly or expressed through a breast pump, which will not affect milk production.

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