Being a mom has its challenges and breastfeeding is one of the first you encounter when giving birth to your baby. With so much information online and not enough hands-on help, it’s difficult for new moms to learn how to breastfeed as well as how to distinguish between common myths and truths surrounding them.
If you’re still pregnant, this is the right time for you to start learning about breastfeeding. There are many informative sources you can trust, from UNICEF, WHO and La Leche League International as one of the leading experts who offer free help and advice for new and upcoming moms. Make sure to learn some basics of breastfeeding to avoid succumbing to myths that are not only untrue but can be potentially dangerous.
1. It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt
No, it’s not normal. It’s usual for the first few days after birth when both the mom and baby learn how to latch properly. In case you’re still experiencing pain after the first few days, your baby is most likely not latching properly. Make sure to position your baby properly by moving it closer to yourself (not the other way) and ensuring it grabs both your nipple and areola surrounding it. In case breastfeeding still hurts after trying new positions, look for a local certified lactation consultant that can help make breastfeeding easier for you.
2. Your milk comes a few days after birth
As hormone prolactin, responsible for your body producing milk, is present throughout pregnancy, you can experience leaking even in the last few days of your pregnancy. Once the placenta is removed, the hormonal levels rise, signaling your body to produce more milk in order to feed for your newborn. That’s why it’s important to have the first feed within an hour after birth.
Your baby should be fed on demand for a few reasons, the first one being that colostrum, also called “liquid gold”, is filled with immunity-boosting cells, fats, and other nutrients perfectly tailored to your baby. The second reason why it’s important is that milk production relies upon how much your baby breastfeeds. The more you breastfeed, the more milk will be produced and, over time, your body will make as much milk as your growing baby will need. Trust your body — it’s made for this!
3. You should eat plain food when breastfeeding
This is very much not true. As your milk is produced by your hormones signaling other hormones, and not the food you eat, there’s no need to avoid eating certain foods. The only exemption to this case (besides alcohol) is the food you (or your child) are allergic to, to avoid cross-contamination.
Make sure to eat a well-balanced diet as breastfeeding can sometimes be harsh on your body if you’re not eating enough. In case you see any changes or allergies in your baby after you ate a specific food, then it’s advisable to avoid it until you can discuss it with your doctor. If you ate a lot of spicy food, strawberries, peanuts or beans before and during your pregnancy- feel free to continue eating them!
4. It’s okay if your baby sleeps through the night!
If we’re talking about newborns and babies younger than 1, then this is not true. If your baby is exclusively breastfeeding, it’s important it has 10 to 12 feeds per day, with at least 2-3 during the night. The time between the feeds should not exceed 4 hours.
Why this is important is because breastmilk is easily digested, making it crucial to feed often. With newborns the situation is even more serious as they’re at a higher risk of their blood sugar dropping during the night, making them unable to wake up and cry to be fed. This is not the case with formula as it is much heavier to digest, making your baby more tired and sleepy as their body uses a lot of energy to digest the food. The formula should always be dosed based on the instructions on the package unless instructed differently by the pediatrist.
Due to this, it’s advisable to feed your child at least once per night, while maintaining 10-12 feeds in 24 hours. In case you wish not to wake your baby up, you can offer your breast even in their sleep as they’ll instinctively latch and get their night dose of energy and comfort.
5. You shouldn’t breastfeed if you’re sick!
Also untrue. Based on the type of illness, you can usually continue breastfeeding while you’re sick. You need to make sure that you receive the right treatment and that you rest, eat and drink properly. In certain cases, the antibodies your body produces to treat your disease or infection will pass on to your infant, building up its own defenses. In case you’re taking any medication, make sure to ask your doctor whether it’s safe for breastfeeding as there are alternatives for almost any illness. If they’re unsure, they can check in the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed).