There are several misconceptions associated with breastfeeding. We clear some of them here.
By Dr Nidhi Chauhan
Breastfeeding, a completely natural process, has been the subject of countless ongoing discussions and debates for decades. Mother’s milk is the most important nutrient for a child to be consumed at the infant stage. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has referred to breastmilk as being the baby’s first vaccine, since it provides vital antibodies and an immunity boost to a newborn. Emphasising the need for everyone, especially new mothers to understand and recognise the importance of breastfeeding in the baby’s future, WHO has declared the theme for Breast Feeding Awareness as “Breastfeeding: The Foundation For Life.”
Here, we aim to dispel a few of the most popular myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding and state the reality to help new mothers fully understand the process and its health benefits, for her as well as her child.
Myth: Every mother and child adapts to breastfeeding instinctively.
Fact: Breastfeeding may be easier for a second-time mother, but is a totally new experience for the first-time mother. She’s bound to have a lot of anxiety in the first week, which may pose a few difficulties for her and the baby. However, she must keep trying and get professional help from the obstetrician, a paediatrician or certified lactation consultant.
Myth: Breastfeeding is a painful process.
Fact: Breastfeeding is not supposed to be a painful process if the baby is latching on well and the mother’s position while feeding her baby is comfortable. However, during the first few days, women may experience some discomfort as the mother and baby start getting used to the beautiful bond of breastfeeding. A woman can always seek professional help from her doctor, if she develops sore nipples or painful lumps in her breast, which are usually treated with a few simple remedies.
Myth: Most women fail to produce enough milk, which causes the baby to nurse every hour.
Fact: While it is true that a mother’s body adapts to produce enough milk for her baby, the reason why the baby still feeds every two hours is because breast milk is easily digested. A baby who sleeps well, is gaining weight, wetting enough diapers in a day, is generally receiving enough breast milk. Formula milk, on the other hand, is difficult to digest; hence, the baby tends to feed at slightly longer intervals.
Myth: Bottle-feeding is easier than breastfeeding.
Fact: This misinformed notion has grown popular because of the lack of essential support and advice which mothers might require, to acclimatise themselves with the process of breastfeeding, during the initial period. However, with some guidance, this myth can be debunked completely, because in reality, breastfeeding is considered to be a very enriching and rewarding experience, especially as compared to bottle-feeding.
Myth: Modern formula milk is as nutritious as breast milk.
Fact: While this claim came to light as early as in the 1900s, the truth is that modern formula milk only superficially contains the same amount of nutrition as breast milk. This is because breast milk is produced directly in the mother’s body, caters specifically to the requirements of the baby and contains antibodies that protect the newborn. Formula milk, on the other hand, contains no living cells, enzymes, antibodies, and hormones, which are essential for the all-round development of the child and for boosting his or her immunity.
Myth: If a woman has symptoms of cold, cough or fever, she should refrain from breastfeeding.
Fact: There are very few situations in which a mother is advised against breastfeeding. Your doctor will tell you not to breastfeed if you or your baby have one the conditions/contraindications to breastfeeding, in the beginning itself. Generally, when a mother has a mild cough, cold and fever, she can safely breastfeed her baby. However, there may be some cases when a mother may not be able to feed the baby directly if she is really unwell. Once she gets enough rest and is a little better, she can get resume breastfeeding.
(The writer is a gynecologist at Saifee Hospital.)