Breastfeeding Myths And Facts That Every Mother Should Know

Mother's milk is the best gift for a newborn. We ask an expert to address popular myths on breastfeeding and talk about common facts that every new mother should know.

By Leena Ghosh

Breastfeeding Myths And Facts That Every Mother Should Know

The birth of a baby is an occasion for celebration for the entire family. But, it is also a time when new mothers get a lot of suggestions and advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. From how much a baby should feed to the diet a new mother must follow, there are many myths regarding breastfeeding.

Lactation consultant, Dr Sonali Santhanam, separates fact from fiction and busts some popular myths about breastfeeding. Here they are:

Popular myths about breastfeeding

1. Myth: I can’t breastfeed when I take medication.

Very few medicines get into breast milk in concentrations high enough to affect the baby. If you need to take medicines while breastfeeding, ask your lactation consultant to work with your doctor to figure out the best alternatives.

2. Myth: I can’t breastfeed if I have mastitis or a breast infection.

You can breastfeed even with a breast infection. In fact, it’s important to continue feeding to keep your breasts empty. Sometimes, your baby may reject breast milk if it tastes salty. But, as long as the baby is happy to feed, mothers must continue to breastfeed.

3. Myth: Exercising when breastfeeding will make my milk sour and reduce my milk supply.

This is not true. Moderate exercise can boost your body’s metabolism and help produce more milk.

4. Myth: Babies may be allergic to the lactose in mother’s milk.

There is very little lactose in breast milk. However, there is a small possibility that a baby who is intolerant to cow milk protein may get exposed to it if the protein enters breast milk through the mom’s diet. In such cases, the baby may experience eczema, loose stools, blood or green mucous in stools, or show other signs of allergy.

5. Myth: If I bottle-feed my baby, she will develop nipple confusion and not latch to the breast.

While it’s true that babies may refuse the breast after drinking milk from a bottle, they do not do that because they are confused. When babies begin drinking from a bottle, they develop flow preference, as milk flows faster from a bottle. Therefore, they refuse breastfeeding because it takes more effort on their part.

6. Myth: Big breasts mean more milk.

That’s not true. Size does not matter.

Basics new mothers get wrong

Breastfeeding is a skill that all new mothers need to learn. Following are some of the basics that first-time mothers get wrong at times:

  1. Most mothers know about the importance of a good latch. However, they think that the whole areola should fit in the baby’s mouth. This never happens. In fact, when feeding a baby, more areola should be visible above and less below the baby's mouth. It’s called an asymmetric latch.
  2. Mothers are often taught to tickle their baby’s ear to wake him up if he falls asleep while breastfeeding. This can be quite annoying for the baby. So, mothers should give gentle compression at the breast to wake the baby up. This will ensure good milk transfer and keep him interested in feeding.
  3. New mothers tend to think that one bottle of formula at night will help babies sleep for longer and just one bottle won’t affect the mother-baby relationship. However, this isn't true. Although one bottle of formula can make a baby sleep for four hours, it will also prevent the stimulation at the breast, which can affect a mother’s milk supply. Also, feeding from a bottle can cause problems such as the development of thrush or flow preference, causing the baby to refuse feeding directly from the mother. These issues usually escalate quickly, and mothers can develop breast infection from not emptying the breasts frequently.
  4. Many mothers feed their babies from only one breast at each feed. It is recommended that a mother feed from one breast till it feels completely empty and the baby loses interest. She can always offer the second breast after burping the baby. Letting the baby feed on both breasts will keep the mother’s milk supply up and avoid breastfeeding issues that occur when the baby is around three months old.
  5. Babies cry for a feed usually when they are very hungry. Some early signs that your baby is hungry are: turning her head from side-to-side, smacking her lips or bringing her hand to her mouth. Mothers should not wait to feed their babies until they get very hungry. This develops a poor feeding pattern and the act of breastfeeding becomes more vigorous and painful. 

"Breastfeeding is an instinctual and natural act, but it is also an art that is learned day by day" - La Leche League

Indeed, breastfeeding can be challenging at times and you get to learn something new about it all the time. But, do not get disheartened when you face hurdles. Talk to experts and to your doctor to seek help whenever you need it. After all, breast milk is the best milk and mothers always know what's best for their child!

Dr Sonali Santhanam is an American Board Certified Physical Therapist specialising in back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. She has a Doctorate and a Masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh (USA). She is also a Certified HypnoBirthing Practitioner and Lactation Counsellor. A devoted mother of two, Dr Sonali’s perinatal programs support women from pre-conception to well after they have birthed their babies.

Do you have doubts or questions about breastfeeding? Join our community to interact with experts.