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World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7

Hey! Before you skim past this article because the word “breast” makes you blush, bear with me for a few minutes. Even if you are not a nursing mother, you are still important to the success of breastfeeding moms within our communities. Support from family, friends, employers, and the community as a whole can increase the likelihood of continued breastfeeding, which science has proven is the best way to nourish babies.

Since the culture and science of breastfeeding has drastically changed in the last 5 decades, I thought it would be pertinent to share some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding so that we as a community would be more knowledgeable and better able to offer support to nursing mothers.

  • Myth 1: Breastfeeding will come naturally.
    • Though breastfeeding is a natural act, it doesn’t mean it is easy, especially in the beginning. Breastfeeding is a learned process for both mom and baby. Having difficulty does not mean you cannot or should not breastfeed. It just means you need support.
  • Myth 2: It is normal to feel pain while breastfeeding.
    • While temporary discomfort at the beginning of a nursing session can be normal, especially in the first few weeks, sustained and increasing pain is not normal. The most frequent cause of sore nipples is incorrect positioning, once adjustments are made, the pain should improve within a day or two. If you feel pain while nursing, seek support from a Certified Breastfeeding Educator or a Lactation Consultant.
  • Myth 3: My baby nurses often, so my milk supply must be low.
    • In the first month of life, a newborn will be at the breast AT LEAST 8 hours a day. Research shows if a baby is allowed to nurse often or “on demand,” a mother’s milk supply will increase to meet the needs of the baby. Additionally, a newborns stomach is the size of a ½ teaspoon, growing to the size of a chicken egg by four weeks. And breastmilk digests easily and quickly, so frequent nursing sessions are needed for optimal growth and development.
  • Myth 4: Breastfeeding is only for food.
    • Breastmilk is the perfect food source, but babies also nurse for thirst, comfort, affection, relaxation, and immunity. The need for comfort is just as high a priority as the need for food. Allowing baby to nurse even when he does not “seem hungry” provides great security and comfort to baby. Also, the sucking helps to ensure a great milk supply.
  • Myth 5: Baby should eat on a schedule every 3-4 hours.
    • It is better if a baby can feed “on demand.” Putting baby on a feeding schedule can lead to problems for both mother and baby. Breastmilk is made on a supply and demand system. The more time that lapses between feedings, the less milk is made. Additionally, babies put on a strict feeding schedule often have difficulty gaining weight and cry more often. Feeding “on cue” is a great way for baby to self-regulate their own milk intake, which will ensure the mother’s body makes enough breastmilk.
  • Myth 6: Breastfeeding makes baby too dependent on mom.
    • Babies are biologically wired to have an attachment to their mother. Moms provide food, comfort, and security through breastfeeding. If family or friends want to help with the baby, they can do other helpful tasks such as diaper changing, burping, and bathing.
  • Myth 7: Give cereal at 3 months so baby will “sleep through the night.”
    • Current recommendations from the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics are exclusive breastfeeding the first 6 months of life. Exclusive means giving no other food or drink – not even water – except breastmilk. At 6 months, complementary foods may be added, but breastfeeding should still happen on demand to ensure baby is receiving adequate nutrition. Also, it is developmentally normal for babies to continue to wake during the night to eat. Night time nursing sessions ensures an adequate milk supply.  Currently, there are no scientific studies which show feeding infants cereal prior to bedtime makes them sleep longer.
  • Myth 8: Pumping output is an accurate way to tell how much milk my body is making.
    • A pump is not as effective at removing milk from the breast as a suckling baby is. Therefore, pump output is not a great way to determine how much milk is being made. Your body is making enough for your baby as long as baby is gaining weight and has 5-6+ wet diapers per day.
  • Myth 9: I should only let baby nurse 15-20 minutes on each breast.
    • Switching breasts early or cutting a feeding short by clock watching can cause baby to not receive as much milk as she needs. Instead of watching the clock, watch the baby. Offer one breast and let baby nurse until she unlatches herself. Then, offer the second breast. This will not only ensure baby is full and satisfied, but will also ensure a good milk supply.
  • Myth 10: Breastfeeding is a reliable form of birth control.
    • While exclusively breastfeeding does help suppress ovulation, it is not a fail-safe solution to avoiding pregnancy. Additional protection is recommended.
  • Myth 11: My baby should wean by his/her first birthday.
    • Though it is a cultural norm in the United States to wean baby by 12 months, it is not necessary. The average weaning age throughout the world is 4.2 years. Breastmilk does not stop being nutritious after 1 year. In fact, it will provide 1/3 of daily energy requirements and a large percentage of vitamins and minerals through the second year of life and beyond. Additionally, breastmilk continues to provide immunity and comfort for the child. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends continued breastfeeding to two years old and beyond, as long as both mom and baby are comfortable.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope to have shed some light on some of the most common breastfeeding misconceptions. If you are in need of breastfeeding support, please contact our local Certified Breastfeeding Educator, Emilie Campbell at (620) 635-0519.  Or join our newly formed Breastfeeding Support Group. Our support group is really informal and meets at a different mama’s house monthly. To find out the next time and place, feel free to contact Ashley Smith at (620) 518-2726. 

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Ashland Health Center625 S. Kentucky St.Ashland, KS  67831

p. 620.635.2241f. 620.635.2229

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