Despite the leaps and bounds of progress towards mother and child healthcare, several topics are still not talked about and are considered taboos. Breastfeeding, in particular, is one of these topics that is incredibly important yet not many people talk about it, including the women in families. It is due to this that young mothers often don’t know what to do when they begin to breastfeed, or they are riddled with misinformation gathered from unreliable sources.
To bridge this information gap that promotes unhealthy choices here is bursting of some of the most prevalent breastfeeding myths that you may have heard:
1. Myth: The Colostrum, yellowish first milk, should not be fed to the baby.
In accordance with this surprisingly popular myth, a lot of women are told that the first milk is bad for a newborn when the truth is the exact opposite. The first milk or Colostrum is extremely important for your baby, so much that you should not give anything else to a baby before Colostrum. It is nutrient rich along with immunity building antibodies and helps in your baby’ development. Nothing else can substitute the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, be it formulas, water, or any other artificial products.
2. Myth: Breastfeeding negatively affects the shape of your breasts.
While it is true that the shape of your breasts changes during pregnancy and some of it lingers in the breastfeeding period, these are neither negative nor permanent. Many women fear the sagging of breasts after they start breastfeeding, but this worry is unfounded. In fact, it has been proven that weight fluctuation, ageing and even simple gravity have far more effect on your breasts than nursing.
3. Myth: You should not breastfeed when suffering from an infection.
Since newborn babies are always in close contact with their mothers, it is inevitable that they may also get infected. The transfer of any common virus is in no way due to breastfeeding. Rather, your breast milk supply will have antibodies that will fight off or prevent the infection in the baby’s body. Just make sure that the infection you suffer from is a mild and not something more dangerous like HIV, TB, Brucellosis, etc. make sure to consult your doctor if you are unsure of the situation rather than listening to well-meaning unprofessional advice.
4. Myth: You cannot eat spicy food during the breastfeeding period.
While the advice to avoid spicy food during pregnancy is useful, the same cannot be said for the duration of breastfeeding. It is another breastfeeding myth that you cannot eat spicy foods at this time. In a dietitian’s opinion, extremely spicy food should be avoided for a few weeks right after childbirth because it can lead to constipation. Other than that, you are free to eat as you wish. It can even be considered under the benefits of breastfeeding for babies as different types of food allow them to experience the concept of flavours via your breast milk.
5. Myth: Feeling sexual arousal during breastfeeding is abnormal.
One of the many things no-one talks about is how common it is for women to feel sexual arousal during breastfeeding. This arousal then turns into confusion and guilt when ridiculed by others, causing mothers to stop breastfeeding. Don’t worry, the physical arousal due to your body’s reaction to nipple stimulation is entirely separate to your emotions and feelings towards your child. Scientifically speaking, Oxytocin is released when you are aroused and when you are breastfeeding too. It is a normal bodily reaction that should not stop nursing.
6. Myth: You cannot breastfeed if you are pregnant with another child.
Contrary to what the above myth states, pregnancy does not hinder the breastfeeding process in any way. You are not stealing the nutrition from the unborn baby in order to nourish the other one. Pregnancy also does not have any effect on the quality or quantity of your breast milk supply. Whether you are pregnant again or not, WHO suggests at least 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding for a newborn.
7. Myth: You should feed honey and Janam-Ghutti to the baby along with the breast milk.
You may have heard from your own mother and grandmother, how babies are always given Janam Ghutti or honey. Maybe you were too! Janam Ghutti is a traditional India Ayurvedic concoction made of many different herbs that are normally healthy for an adult body, but researchers have found that feeding them to a newborn can have opposite effects. Raw honey also has been proven to cause Botulism in children. WHO and paediatricians strictly decline administration of anything other than breast milk to a newborn for at least 6 months. Take precautions and consult your doctor before feeding anything else to your child.
8. Myth: No medication can be taken during breastfeeding or you can’t breastfeed if you are on medication.
While breastfeeding is also a sensitive period along with pregnancy, it is not in direct conflict with a lot of medicines. So it is untrue that you cannot take any medication at all during this time. Many medicines also come with warnings for pregnant or breastfeeding women as well. Make sure to read these carefully and avoid self-medication to ensure that you only take your gynaecologist approved medicines.
9. Myth: The size of your breasts decides your breast milk supply.
The breast milk supply is directly dependent on the milk needs of your newborn, subsequently developing a simple demand and supply equation. Thus, the size of your breast holds no value in how much breast milk your body produces. Having bigger breasts do not automatically increase breast milk production and vice versa.
10. Myth: The formula is better than your breast milk.
There is a reason that you are advised to breastfeed exclusively before turning to a formula. While the formula may have added iron, lead and other minerals, it does not contain any immunity enhancing antibodies, hormones and enzymes that your breast milk does. Keep in mind, all the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and continue nursing for at least a full year.
11. Myth: Nipples need to be washed before breastfeeding.
It is important to balance the need for hygiene with excessive cleaning of nipples during the breastfeeding period. If you maintain general cleanliness in daily life, there is no need to rub or wash your nipples before and after breastfeeding. This is because the washing may dry your skin in that area and cause soreness. You should gently put the last dregs of the breast milk after a feeding session, around your nipples to moisturise them naturally and prevent dryness.
Grandmothers, aunties, neighbours and friends may all mean well and still give you incorrect advice regarding breastfeeding. You may have already found a lot of such advice in the above breastfeeding myths, yet there will be many other suggestions still. Make sure that you have the factually correct information before taking it into consideration. After all, mothers are the decision makers for themselves and their newborns!