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World Breastfeeding Week 2023: Debunking 10 Common Breastfeeding Myths And Misconceptions

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Dr Radhamany K

Breastfeeding, a completely natural process, has been a subject of continuous discussion and debate for decades. It is widely recognised that mother’s milk is the most crucial nutrient for an infant, and the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges breast milk as the baby’s first vaccine due to its essential antibodies and immunity-boosting properties for newborns. However, breastfeeding is surrounded by a plethora of myths and misconceptions. As new parents embark on this journey, they often encounter conflicting advice and information that can be confusing.

In this article, we aim to debunk several prevalent myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding and present the reality to help new mothers grasp the process and its health benefits for both them and their child.

Myth 1: Breastfeeding is always painful

Fact: While some discomfort is common initially, breastfeeding should not be consistently painful. Proper latching and positioning are key to preventing discomfort. Seek guidance from a gynecologist if you experience persistent pain.

Myth 2: Your baby will automatically know how to breastfeed

Fact: Babies have reflexes that aid in feeding, but breastfeeding is a learned skill for both parent and baby. Patience, practice, and support are essential during this learning process.

Myth 3: Many mothers don’t produce enough milk for their baby

Fact: Most parents can produce enough milk for their baby’s needs. Adequate nursing, proper latch, and frequent feedings are key to maintaining milk supply.

Myth 4: Consuming coffee or alcohol is off-limits while breastfeeding

Fact: Moderately enjoying coffee and alcohol is generally safe during breastfeeding. By drinking responsibly and allowing some time before nursing, any potential effects can be minimized.

Myth 5: You should wean once your baby starts solids

Fact: While introducing solid foods is essential for their development, breast milk should remain a significant part of their diet until at least 12 months. Breast milk continues to provide essential nutrients and immune protection.

Myth 6: Breastfeeding will cause your breasts to sag

Fact: Breast changes during pregnancy and aging are the primary causes of sagging breasts, not breastfeeding. Wearing supportive bras can help.

Myth 7: You can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding

Fact: While breastfeeding can act as a natural form of contraception under specific conditions, it is not entirely reliable. If you want to avoid pregnancy, consider using additional contraceptive methods.

Myth 8: Your baby won’t benefit from breastfeeding after the first few months

Fact: Breast milk continues to offer numerous health benefits for babies beyond the first few months. The WHO recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age.

Myth 9: Breastfed babies don’t get sick

Fact: While breast milk provides essential antibodies and immune factors, babies can still get sick when exposed to viruses or infections. However, breast milk can help reduce the severity and duration of illnesses.

Myth 10: You should stop breastfeeding when you are sick

Fact: Breastfeeding provides essential antibodies to your baby, helping them fight infections and build their immune system. Unless explicitly advised by a healthcare professional, continue breastfeeding while you are sick.

One prevalent myth is that breastfeeding is always painless, but this isn’t the case for every parent. During the initial stages, some discomfort is common as the body adapts to the new experience. However, persistent pain could be a sign of an improper latch or other issues that need attention. Seeking help from a lactation consultant can make a significant difference in ensuring a positive breastfeeding experience.

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Another misconception is that supplementing with formula is a sign of failure. Breastfeeding is a personal decision, and various factors may influence a parent’s choice. Supplementing with formula can be a viable option for some families and is not a reflection of a parent’s capabilities.

Breastfeeding is a partnership between parent and baby, and both need time to adjust and learn together. Seeking help and support from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, and support groups can provide valuable guidance and encouragement. Furthermore, many mothers worry about their milk supply. It’s important to remember that breast milk supply is primarily driven by supply and demand. Frequent and effective breastfeeding or pumping sessions can help stimulate milk production. If you have concerns about your milk supply, consulting with a gynecologist can provide helpful insights and strategies.

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Despite the common myths, breastfeeding is a beautiful and beneficial experience for both parent and baby. It’s a time of nourishment, bonding, and emotional connection. Embracing this journey with an open mind, seeking support, and staying informed can lead to a rewarding breastfeeding experience. Remember that every parent-baby duo is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to breastfeeding.

Check ABP Live’s stories explaining the science behind various health phenomena, and the articles appearing in the weekly health column here.

The author is a clinical professor and the head of the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi

[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.]

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