“Dispelling the myths that can interfere with successful breastfeeding”
Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most important things that you can do to give her a good start in life. It not only provides your baby with the best possible nutrition (no formula can quite match it, breastmilk is perfectly designed for human babies) but it also provides essential protection aginst infection and illness. A breastfed baby enjoys the comfort of that very special closeness with her mother, and the skin on skin contact that she loves.
Breastfeeding is good for moms too. There is scientific evidence that moms who have breastfed their babies are less likely to suffer from breast cancer later in life. And, quite simply, the closeness and fulfillment that you get from breastfeeding are thoroughly enjoyable.
You can overcome breastfeeding problems
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural parts of motherhood, but many moms find that problems in the early days after birth can confound their desire to feed their babies themselves and so they end up resorting to the bottle. Some of these moms then become depressed and feel that they have failed. This doesn’t need to happen! While there can be circumstances where breastfeeding is not possible or advisable, these are far more rare than you might think. Most moms are able to overcome the problems with help and the right advice.
Sorting the truth from the myths
A lot of problems in the first weeks of breastfeeding are down to a lack of confidence.
There are so many myths surrounding the subject, it can be hard for a new mom to know what is true and what is not. So, let’s dispel a few of the more common myths.
- You don’t need to have large breasts to breastfeed your baby successfully! Mothers with small breasts are just as capable of feeding their babies and producing enough milk.
- Many mothers can’t produce enough milk. This is simply not true. Most mothers are more than capable of producing enough milk to feed their babies. Occasionally, a rare physical condition can make breast feeding difficult or impossible, but this is vary rare. If you think you may have a problem, ask your doctor or midwife, but also get help from a breastfeeding organisation such as La Leche League (http://www.llli.org/ ). Don’t listen to well meaning friends or family who may not know the facts.
- You can run out of milk if your baby feeds a lot. This one stems from a total misunderstanding of how breastfeeding works. In fact, the more a baby feeds, the more milk will be produced. Milk comes on a supply and demand basis, which is actually very convenient! So, feeding on demand is a great way to establish a good milk supply.
- Using a breast pump shows you how much milk you are producing. This is not the case. A baby who is feeding correctly can get much more milk than a breast pump can extract. Some moms find they can hardly pump any milk at all (the process can induce stress which inhibits milk let down) yet their babies are feeding contentedly and gaining weight well. A pump also doen’t have the powerful emotional triggers that aid a good let down of milk. Some moms find that just looking at their baby or hearing her cry brings the milk coming! So, all a breast pump milk collection can tell you is how much you managed to pump at that moment, not how much your baby is getting.
- Formula is as good as breast milk so there is no need to overcome difficulties. Wrong! No formula can match breastmilk. These days, formulas are very good, so if you can’t or really don’t want to breastfeed they do offer an alternative, but there is no doubt that breast is best. A formula simply cannot mimic the qualities of breastmilk. For one thing, breastmilk varies from the start to the end of each feed. It also changes from being full of colostrum just after birth to mature milk to suit the changing needs of your baby. Every mother’s breastmilk is different, uniquely feeding your unique baby.
- Thin looking milk isn’t good enough. Rubbish! Breastmilk can look thin and even a little blueish in colour, but this is not indicative of its nutritional qualities. It’s normal! Breastmilk is not the same as cow’s milk, goat’s milk or formula, so don’t expect it to look the same.
- Breastfed babies need other milk supplements after six months of age. No, they don’t! Breastmilk is sufficient to nourish your baby until he is ready to start on solids. This happens at aound six months, but he does not need to also take forumula milk just because he is eating solids. In fact, if you are able to express a little milk to mix with his solid feeds when required it’s better than using formula to do this.
- You should stop breastfeeding if you have sore or bleeding nipples. This is not necessary…nor is it wise. If you stop feeding it may be difficult to restart when the problem has gone. Sore nipples can occur during the early days but usually eases as your breasts become used to feeding. A little ingested blood will not harm your baby, although you may notice it in his stools or sick. If you have a breast abcess it can actually be helped to heal through feeding your baby and will not pass any infection to him.
- You can’t breastfeed if you have had breast surgery. Although there is a tiny grain of truth in this (see ** below), it is rarely true. Many moms who have had breast implants can feed their babies. So can moms who have had sugery for other reasons. *If the surgical incision has been made along the line of the areola there may be problems. If this is the case, seek medical and expert breastfeeding advice before giving up. * Breast reduction surgery might inhibit milk production, but again, this is not necessarily the case.
- Even if you can feed from only one breast you can feed your baby successfully.
- Women with inverted nipples cannot breastfeed. A lot of people think this one is true, but as it is the breast tissue that the baby latches onto and not the nipple, it really doesn’t make any difference. In fact the action of the baby’s sucking can solve the problem of an inverted nipple.
- Women who have twins can’t produce enough milk for them both. No! Go back to read the earlier point about understanding how breast feeding works. Supply and demand means that the more milk is required by the baby or babies, the more will be produced. So, twins can be successfully breastfed just as one baby can.
These are just a few of the more common myths and misconceptions you may hear about breastfeeding. Always ask for professional help if you are experiencing problems or have concerns, but be aware that not all health professionals are experts in breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor or health visitor, but also ask for advice from a specialist organisation like La Leche League (international) or the National Childbirth Trust (UK). In most cases, problems and worries are easily sorted. Successful breastfeeding can take a little dedication at first, but it is worth it in the end. However, if you are one of the rare women who are not able to breastfeed, don’t beat yourself up about it. There are many other ways to be a great mom!