Breatsfeeding Myth-Bustersby Janet Krenz
Everyone knows that breastmilk is best for babies. So why are fewer than half of Canadian babies still breastfed by six months and less than 10 per cent still breastfed by one year?
Part of the reason could be that there is a lot of incorrect information and misunderstanding about breastfeeding. This often leads to confusion and can affect parents’ decisions about whether or not to start or continue breastfeeding. Below are some myths and facts about breastfeeding that may help families prepare for and understand certain issues.Myth #1: Breastfeeding takes a lot of time.
Fact: Looking after a baby takes a lot of time! The activities of all new mothers are limited to feeding and caring for baby and being tired. If you consider the time it takes to sterilize and wash bottles and nipples, and to buy and prepare formula, formula feeding takes much more time.Myth #2: Breastfeeding is painful.
Fact: Breastfeeding, with a good position and latch, should not be painful. If breastfeeding is painful call your public health nurse, midwife, or doctor.Myth #3: Women with small breasts can’t breastfeed.
Fact: Breast size is not important. Smaller breasts have smaller storage capacity, not smaller production.Myth #4: Women with flat or inverted nipples can’t breastfeed.
Fact: Babies suck the breast, not just the nipple. There are methods that can help. Most situations can be managed with support.Myth #5: Many women do not produce enough breastmilk.
Fact: Most women produce more than enough milk. Most women use only two-thirds of their capacity and “too much” milk is common. When babies gain too slowly or lose weight, it is usually because the baby is not getting the milk that is available, not because the mother doesn’t have enough milk. The usual reason the baby does not get the milk is that he is poorly latched. This leads to milk being left in the breasts, which signals the mother’s body to “make less milk.” This is why it is so important that a mother be shown, on the first day, how to latch her baby properly. Myth #6: If a baby wants to nurse at night it means the mother doesn’t have enough breastmilk.
Fact: It is normal for babies to wake to feed at night during the first year of life. Myth #7: If a baby suddenly wants to nurse more often it means the mother doesn’t have enough breastmilk.
Fact: Babies have growth spurts at about age 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months of age. It is normal for babies to want to feed more often for a few days at these times, to signal mom’s body to “make more milk.” Myth #8: Pumping is a good way to tell how much milk the mother has.
Fact: Many women who have lots of milk may not get much milk from a pump. A baby who nurses well can get much more milk than a mother can get with a pump. Myth #9: Adding solids will help a baby sleep through the night.
Fact: Adding solids too early may cause a baby to have an upset tummy and wake more often. Breastmilk provides enough calories for babies until six months. Health Canada recommends waiting until six months to add solids.Myth #10: A mother who smokes shouldn’t breastfeed.
Fact: It would be better if the mom did not smoke but if she can’t stop smoking completely, it is better to breastfeed and smoke than to formula feed and smoke. Breastfeeding decreases the negative effects of smoke on the baby’s lungs and provides many other important health benefits for both the baby and the mother. Myth #11: If a baby is breastfed, the other parent is left out.
Fact: There are many other important things a partner can do to develop a special relationship with baby, such as sing, cuddle, rock, burp, bathe, or change the baby. When baby is six months, the partner can feed solids.Myth #12: If a woman becomes pregnant she should stop breastfeeding.
Fact: Women can breastfeed throughout pregnancy. Milk supply will likely drop during pregnancy, but if the baby is taking other foods, this is usually not a problem. However, some babies will stop breastfeeding if the milk supply is low.Myth #13: Mothers on medications can’t breastfeed.
Fact: Although some medications are not safe, many medications are considered safe. The best reference on this topic is a book called Medications in Mother’s Milk by Dr. Thomas Hale. It is available at all local health units. Talk with your public health nurse, pharmacist, doctor, or midwife if you are concerned about breastfeeding while using a medication.Myth #14: Breastfeeding causes saggy breasts.
Fact: Pregnancy, aging, and gravity cause breasts to sag, not breastfeeding. Mothers usually find it most comfortable to wear a good support bra.Myth #15: Breastfeeding past age two or three years is bad for a child and will make him dependent.
Fact: There is much scientific evidence that the opposite is true. Human babies are born helpless and have the longest period of dependency of any species. We are often uncomfortable with dependency because our culture equates it with weakness. In fact, it is healthy dependency, where a child’s needs are consistently met, that guarantees independence.
The above examples are only a few of the many myths about breastfeeding. This misinformation can set mothers up for failure and make it difficult for parents to know what to do.
For reliable breastfeeding information and support, contact:
• Your public health nurse (at a local health unit—Victoria office @ 388-2200)
• Your midwife or doctor
• La Leche League Victoria, 727-4384
• www.drjacknewman.comJanet Krenz is a Registered Dietitian and Community Nutritionist with VIHA South.