Breastfeeding Myths and What’s Real
Published on: July 24, 2017
Lactation consultant Lia debunks common myths about breastfeeding debunked and tells you what you should know about establishing a healthy milk supply.
By Lia Segall Pasternak
As a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, it seems everyone has some advice to impart. Whilst advice comes with good intentions, it isn’t always correct and may not be based on evidence. This article sets out to debunk some of the most common breastfeeding myths.
“Your milk is not good enough.”
Your milk is 88% water at least, and it is perfect. It changes its composition according to your baby’s needs, providing protection from disease and ever-changing in constitution to meet the growing needs of your baby.
“Since your baby isn’t latching, you should give him formula.”
If for whatever reason baby is not latching, mom should be supported to hand express or pump breastmilk at least every three hours so that she can feed her milk to the baby. This way the baby will get the breastmilk and the mom will signal her body to maintain milk production and protect her milk supply, assuming there are no medical contraindications.
“Giving a bottle of formula at night will get your baby to sleep longer.”
Formula is a bit heavier and takes about half an hour more to digest than breastmilk, but it is not magic and it will not keep a baby asleep for longer. Leaving the milk in the breast overnight can lead to engorgement, possible mastitis and ultimately declining milk production.
“Your baby is going to get spoiled if you nurse on demand.”
Babies are born spoiled, they’ve spent 9 months inside a warm womb inside their mothers where they had free access to all the food they wanted. When they are born they need help with their transition and breastfeeding on demand provides it all together: food, hugs and closeness, all needed for proper development.
Little by little babies can wait for longer periods between feeds, and it happens naturally.
“Your baby should nurse every 2-3-4… hours”
Babies nurse for food but also for thirst. Do you wait for another two hours because you had your last glass of water an hour ago? Obviously not, if you’re thirsty you’ll drink, right? So why would you deny this to your baby whose needs are greater as they are constantly growing.
“You don’t have enough milk (yet / at all / after x time)”
This one is a dangerous one, and it can cost a woman the opportunity to have an exclusive and healthy breastfeeding experience. Breastmilk works with supply and demand; the body starts producing colostrum at 16 weeks of pregnancy.
The second a baby is born the body’s ‘milk factory’ gets to work, producing colostrum for up to three days before mature milk ‘comes in’. In the early days and weeks, your body and baby work together to regulate the supply of milk.
For healthy babies born at term, interfering with the delicate symbiosis of body and baby, especially in the early weeks of nursing, can make this ‘not enough” myth a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For baby, the boob is their happy place so offer it as much as they demand, each time they seek it, even if it feels overwhelming to you. Don’t doubt your body’s ability to meet your baby’s needs.
Focus less on what’s going in, and more on what is coming out. Lots of pee and poop and a baby that feeds happily at the breast is all the indication you need that you are doing just fine. Only a very small percentage of women cannot breastfeed for medical reasons.
“Boobies get saggy because of breastfeeding”
Nope, hormones which sustain pregnancy cause permanent changes within a woman’s breasts. Even if the pregnancy doesn’t continue, her breasts will never be the same as before pregnancy. It isn’t breastfeeding that alters the shape, size, look and feel of your boobs; it’s pregnancy!
“When nursing you cannot know if your baby had enough milk.”
You absolutely can. By day three, baby should be having four wet and three soiled diapers, rising to at least six wet and three soiled by the end of the first week. Baby should be waking for feeds and displaying gulping and swallowing actions and self-detaching from the breast when finished.
Weight is the ultimate indicator. If the baby didn’t lose more than 10% of the birthweight, is back at birthweight by two weeks, and is gaining between 135-170 grams per week, then it’s all good! So sit back, enjoy and relax.
BAMBI Bumps have scales available at Antique Café should you want to check baby’s weight.
“Colostrum isn’t enough for your baby, you need to supplement until your milk comes in.”
Colostrum is ‘nature’s first vaccine’. It contains many antibodies which give a boost to a baby’s immune system.
It also helps to create the intestinal flora of our babies. It is a laxative which helps release the meconium (first black poop).
It comes in very small amounts, but that’s perfectly fine since babies’ stomach is the size of a marble when they’re born, and all they need at each meal is between 2-7ml of colostrum during the first day, about 5-15ml on the second day, 15-30ml on the third day, and so on.
Babies nurse many times during the first few weeks until their stomach grows. Each meal they intake is very small and the body digests it very fast, so they get hungry faster than older babies. But don’t worry, this will pass eventually and it’ll get easier.
In the meantime, feel good about letting your baby nurse as much as he/she needs. This is not only for nutrition and hydration right now, but it is also giving warmth and security that is helping them to transition into this big, loud, scary world.
“Your baby is reacting to your milk, you should stop eating X, Y and Z.”
Those are only urban myths. Feel free to eat whatever you want. Babies will be gassy no matter what, and this too will pass.
“Your baby should take a pacifier/bottle from day 1 to get used to it.”
This can interfere with establishing breastfeeding (baby latch and mother’s supply); it is not recommended to give bottles or pacifiers to breastfed babies until 6 weeks old when the milk supply is established and the breastfeeding is going well.
Sadly, babies don’t come with a sticker that says if this baby will or will not be affected, so it’s better to stay on the safe side and avoid as much as possible.
“Your baby should be sleeping a full night by now, he’s not because you’re breastfeeding”
Babies wake at night for a variety of reasons, sometimes for food, sometimes other reasons. Babies’ sleep cycles are short and they don’t go into a deep sleep because it’s their instinct.
As frustrating as it is for us, it is a relief to know your baby’s body is doing what it’s supposed to do to protect itself. Remember that there is a purpose to those sleepless nights.
“You need to pump to see how much milk you have”
Breast pumps cannot imitate a baby’s latch and suckling, so usually, it won’t be the same or give you the same results as your baby can get when nursing.
I hope this answered some questions and helped debunk some myths, and wish you many hours of breastfeeding joy.
If you encounter challenges with your breastfeeding, reach out for help from a lactation specialist either in Bangkok or online.
Additional Info & Resources
- …and feel free to message me through my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BreastfeedingBangkok/
About the Author
Lia was born and raised in Mexico, moved to Israel in 2010, got married, and had a son in 2014 who made her fall in love with breastfeeding.
Lia quit her job and went to study to become a lactation counselor. After moving to Thailand in 2017, Lia started volunteering with BAMBI Bumps and Babies and Bangkok Breastfeeding Cafe. She had Maya, her daughter, and continues to give all mothers a human approach and support on their breastfeeding journey.
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