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Myth busters

There are many myths, stories or beliefs about breastfeeding that are heard and passed on to mothers, whether or not they happen to be true facts is another matter.

What follows are ten commonly heard myths, plus a short explanation…

There are many more myths to explore and we will expand this section.

Breastfed babies need to be given drinks of water in hot weather.

NO – breastmilk contains everything a baby needs for the first six months. It changes to meet the individual needs of each baby. When it is hot, babies often have shorter, more frequent feeds and receive more thirst-quenching milk. It has been shown also that if breastfed babies are given water, they will take less breastmilk and this in turn can reduce a mother’s milk supply.

Larger breasts make more milk than smaller breasts

NO – the size difference is the amount of fat each breast contains and not the capacity of the breast to make milk.

You have to be careful what you eat when you are breastfeeding.

NO – there are no ‘special ‘ foods to include or avoid when breastfeeding, but it is important for every mother (whether breastfeeding or formula feeding) to look after herself by eating and drinking fluids regularly. Breastfeeding mothers may feel more hungry and thirsty so this is not the time for ‘dieting’.

Breastfeeding makes breasts saggy

NO – pregnancy changes the shape of a woman’s breasts, so they may feel different after having a baby. After breastfeeding, over a period of time, fat is laid back down in the breasts.

Breastfeeding is a painful business

NO – this shouldn’t be expected, because painful, misshapen or damaged nipples are usually signs that attachment needs some adjustment. There are new sensations when breastfeeding for the first time and these soon become familiar. Understanding how babies attach and having the right help and information at the beginning will minimise problems.

Expressing your breasts shows how much milk is in them

NO – babies are usually more efficient at moving milk than breast pumps. Something mechanical does not tend to have the same effect on a mother’s hormones (let-down reflex) as her baby.

Spacing out breastfeeds gives your breasts time to ‘fill up’ with milk

NO – by spacing out feeds you will lower the hormone that makes milk and this will start to reduce your milk supply. Breastfeeding more often will increase this hormone and signal your body to make more milk.

There is little difference between breastmilk and infant formula.

NO – infant formula has no antibodies, living cells, hormones or enzymes and does not change to meet the individual needs of each baby at various stages of growth and development. Formula milk is universal but not individual.

There is no way of knowing how much milk a breastfed baby takes

NO –while measuring the exact amount of milk available to the baby could be tricky, there are several ways of telling that a baby is taking plenty of milk. Baby is usually more satisfied after a feed than before, nappies are wet and heavy, with several soiled ones each day in the early weeks and baby is growing. Other signs include hearing baby swallowing milk, breasts feeling softer and looser after a feed than before a feed and seeing effective long, deep nutritive sucking.

Babies get all the goodness in the first few days of breastfeeding and that’s the most important time

NO- every day counts with breastfeeding. Colostrum (first milk) is a concentrated form of breastmilk because the volume is small. Mature breastmilk is equally important and continues to provide ongoing protection from infections throughout the period of breastfeeding. Whatever germs are present in the environment, mothers will provide antibodies, in their milk, to protect their babies.

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