KBBF: Breastfeeding Myths
There are many breastfeeding myths and this final post in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding week series is going to try and address some of them.
1. Mum doesn’t have enough milk
This is one of the most common that I hear and is nearly always untrue. More likely that the baby hasn’t been latching correctly to access the milk. If there is any indication that the baby is not getting enough milk, make sure someone that knows what they’re doing helps with the latch and see if that helps.
2. Breastfeeding Hurts
Breastfeeding should never be so painful that it would make you want to stop. After the initial settling in period of the first few days, the discomfort should ease. If it doesn’t then something isn’t right. Again, see someone knowledgeable and have the latch checked as this is the most common cause of ongoing pain.
3. Breastfed babies need extra water when it’s hot
Breastmilk contains water as well as the fats and nutritional goodies. If baby is thirsty, they may want to feed more often and for shorter periods as the foremilk is more watery and therefore more thirst-quenching.
4. Mum needs to keep her nipples clean
Unlike formula milk which can harbour dangerous bacteria if careful cleanliness isn’t followed, and also doesn’t protect against infection, breastmilk contains live bacteria which are the good type and can actually prevent against infection. Washing the nipples only washes away protective oils that are essential to avoid soreness.
5. There is no way of knowing if baby is getting enough milk
While it is not possible to measure the amount of milk consumed by the baby (expressing is not a good indicator as a well-latched baby is much more efficient that any artificial pump!), you can use other indicators to judge that baby gets enough. These include actual drinking at the breast for several minutes (not just suckling for comfort like Maggie from the Simpsons), regular wet nappies (at least 6 a day for exclusively breastfed babies), consistent weight gain and a satisfied, content baby.
6. Don’t breastfeed a baby with a stomach upset (vomiting and/or diarrohea)
In fact, the best medicine for a baby that is ill is breastmilk and it is the only food baby needs while ill. Mum will have absorbed the bacteria causing the infection and her body will make antibodies that enter the milk supply that will help fight it. Breastmilk also contains all the nutrition that baby needs to regain strength and is the most easily absorbed substance you can give.
7. Mum needs to eat more to breastfeed
While breastfeeding does help burn extra calories (around 500 extra each day – or more than a large slice of chocolate cake), even women on restricted diets can breastfeed. We’ve all seen the images of starving women in drought-ridden African countries breastfeeding their children. Usually, baby will get all the nutrition needed from the milk even if mum’s supply is depleted. It is recommended that nursing mothers eat a nourishing, balanced diet but even if you’re ill for a few days and unable to eat as usual, your body will still ‘work’ and baby won’t suffer.
8. Mum needs to drink more to breastfeed
Again, this is a misnomer. Drink when you’re thirsty (and you may find this is more often than usual), but don’t feel you have to drink a set amount to produce milk. Remember those women I mentioned before? And that sickness bug. Your body can magic milk from very little!
9. The milk has gone if your breasts don’t feel full
Once breastfeeding is established, breasts shouldn’t feel ‘full’ and will never be ’empty’ as they produce milk as the baby feeds. If they feel full, it may be that baby has missed a feed or may have been feeding more than usual and upped your supply (breastmilk production works on supply and demand which is why babies feed much more frequently during a growth spurt as they communicate their need for additional supplies. This can take a few days to come through and your breasts may suddenly seem more full than usual but will settle down quickly. If baby has a problem latching at first due to the fullness, express a little to soften the nipple area before the feed).
10. Don’t drink alcohol while breastfeeding
You’ve gone your whole pregnancy without a drop, even missing the big occasions, so the last thing you want to hear is that you still can’t have anything to drink if you breastfeed! With sensible drinking (i.e. don’t down that whole bottle of gin in one sitting!), only fractional amounts come out in the milk so you can join in with celebrations and even have the odd evening out (yeah, I know! Who’m I kidding?!). But the crucial point is that you don’t need to abstain anymore. Just be sensible – hangovers and babies really, really don’t mix well. I’ve been there and I don’t recommend it! And of course, if you’re responsible for your baby you need to be able to look after him/her without risk. If you can’t stand up, you also can’t pick your baby up safely, so think it through before you go mad!
There are, of course, many more breastfeeding myths you’ll hear over your breastfeeding journey and the internet can always be a dubious source of information. Before you take something as oath, make sure you check the Kellymom or Jack Newman sites as they are invaluable sources of trusted information. Peer supporters undergo many more hours of focused training than most midwives, nurses, GPs or other non-specialised medical practitioners. If you’re not sure, get a second opinion from a qualified peer supporter, or even better, IBCLC qualified lactation consultant. Face to face contact is always preferable for diagnosing issues properly.
As this is the last post in the series, I would like to wish you a wonderful nursing experience and hope that you’ve found something of interest in my posts. If you have, please follow my blog by subscribing above. And don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt.
Finally, I’d like to say a massive thank you to the wonderful Karen at boobiemilk for organising the blogger collective and running the scavenger hunt. She’s worked so hard to make this week happen and I really appreciate all that she’s done and does to promote breastfeeding. Thanks Karen!
Here are some more bloggers involved in the KBBF blog collective:
And these are some wonderful breastfeeding supportive companies: