By: Veena V. Gonuguntla, MD, Aurora Wilkinson Medical Clinic
To help give new mothers clear guidance about breastfeeding, we want to clarify some myths on the topic. But first, let’s look at some facts about breastfeeding: a wonderful, nurturing connection between mother and child.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found breastfeeding rates are rising. Studies show most American mothers want to breastfeed.
Four out of five mothers start their babies off with breastfeeding. After six months, more than half are still breastfeeding. After a year, about a third are breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months. Breastfeeding should continue for at least 12 months. After the first year, breastfeeding can continue for as long as mother and baby want to.
5 Breastfeeding Myths
Myth #1: Breastfeeding is painful
Fact: Although breastfeeding may take some effort to start, pain shouldn’t be part of the process. Pain initially can last for a few seconds and once baby latches on correctly discomfort should go away. A number of positions and techniques can help ensure you and your baby are comfortable. We recommend taking a breastfeeding class during pregnancy. If you continue to be uncomfortable during feeding, check with your health care professional or a lactation consultant. They can give you helpful guidance to make nursing a positive experience.
Myth #2: A nursing mom should avoid spicy foods.
Fact: There’s absolutely no need to avoid spicy foods while breastfeeding. Sharp, strong flavored foods are actually a wonderful way to expose a baby to new tastes and flavors. The flavor of breast milk constantly changes based on foods a mother consumes and this ultimately helps breastfed babies accept a wider variety of foods later on.
Myth #3: Breastfeeding should be temporarily stopped when a mother catches a cold or virus.
Fact: Mothers with colds or viruses do not need to stop breastfeeding. In fact breast milk has targeted antibodies that protect a baby from getting sick. Mother’s milk cannot transmit illness. However, regular measures must be taken to prevent the spreading of illness such as: washing hands often, avoiding sneezing/coughing on the baby and limiting face-to-face contact.
Myth #4: Nutrition in breast milk diminishes as baby grows.
Fact: Breast milk does change as the baby feeds and grows, but it always provides needed nutrients. To start, the breast produces nutritious colostrum, which meets all the newborn’s needs. Mature milk comes two or three days after birth. Throughout the time mom nurses, breast milk continues to provide nutrition and important antibodies to booster baby’s immune system. Infants should be exclusively breastfed – i.e. receive only breast milk – for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. As baby slowly moves into eating more solids, your milk will fill any nutritional gaps nicely.
Myth #5: Mothers of twins won’t make enough milk to feed both babies.
Fact: As long as babies from a multiple pregnancy are born healthy and are breastfeeding successfully, a mother can produce enough milk for her twins. An Australian breastfeeding study found that mothers of twins produced double the milk than a mother of one baby.
In fact, the size of the breast or how much you can pump doesn’t quantify how much you can produce. Remember babies are more efficient in emptying and getting milk out of the breast.
Here are some quick tips to help make breastfeeding more pleasant for mom and baby:
- Drink plenty of water. If dehydrated, you’ll make less milk. (Alcoholic beverages may also slow milk production.)
- Remaining calm will help keep the milk flowing and create a comfortable environment for you and your baby.
- Maintain a healthful, balanced diet with plenty of fruits, veggies and whole grains. While nursing regularly, you’ll need an extra 300 to 500 calories per day compared to what you needed before pregnancy to maintain your weight.
- Sleep may be tricky with a newborn, but it’s essential for your health. Don’t be shy about asking dad, family and friends for help with baby so you can rest.
- Check with your health care provider about how medicines or supplements you take may affect nursing.
Your health care provider is an invaluable resource throughout pregnancy and nursing. If you have questions, ask! Professionals such as a physician, nurse practitioner, midwife, lactation consultant can all be helpful for prenatal and postpartum care, including breastfeeding.