Breastfeeding is one of those topics when mentioned in a discussion will almost involve some sort of advice-giving interlude. From your mother to your cousin, aunt, great aunt, everyone seems to have some gem to pass on about how you can do it better, or the benefits therein.
I have a neighbour, Mrs B, who is an older woman with two grown children. She went practically apoplectic, when she found out I was feeding my less than a month old twins, baby formula.
“For what nau? You cannot even try for one month before introducing baby formula? Do you know what this thing (referring to the tin of milk) is made of? And your husband allowed you?”
My attempt to tell her that they are twins only made her go off on another tangent; “All the more reason for you to try to breastfeed them! They are small! If you breastfeed them, they will gain weight quicker.”
“You too, eat well and your breasts will produce sufficient milk for the two of them. All this baby formula business is not good at all. Just as breastfeeding is good for the baby, it also has benefits for you too.”
Mrs B is a health worker, so has a fair idea of what she’s talking about, but mehn, she’s not the one who had to wake up in the middle of the night to breastfeed two screaming children, who were obviously not satisfied with what was coming from my breasts.
While breastfeeding would have been ideal, it just didn’t fit in with my reality. The fact that everyone is alive, hale and hearty today is enough testament to the rightness of the action I took back then…at least, I think so.
Way back, before I ever thought of having babies, a sister in the neighbourhood where I grew up had been giving us feedback about her birth, when she mentioned how another mom at the hospital, who had just given birth at the same hospital, had struggled and practically had to put the baby almost up to her chin to get a good latch, whereas being endowed, she didn’t have to deal with that reality.
That day, I looked at my chest with my almost non-existent breasts, and I wondered how I was going to do it when that phase of life came. Now I know better, and can almost swear that aunty was just feeling pompous because of her breasts. LOL!
So you see, the myths are many and they can bury the truths, but not anymore. Today, we will take a look at the myths and of course, the truth of them below:
Myth 1: If you have small breasts, you won’t produce enough milk to feed your baby.
Well, the truth that I have found out for myself is, size doesn’t matter! I loved my pregnancy boobs, and honestly, I miss them, but their size didn’t determine whether I had sufficient milk or not.
The breast tissue you need to nurse a baby grows, thanks to all the cocktail of pregnancy hormones your body is experiencing, and that is regardless of your breast size.
It is in the breast tissue, not the fatty tissue that is responsible for breast size, that the milk ducts are located.
So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re big or small or very small, breast-wise your boobs are capable of providing your baby with the milk she/he will need.
Myth 2: Breastfeeding is a “reliable” form of birth control.
Just as it has been marked, it is a myth that has been busted time and time again. There are lots of women who have unplanned babies to show for it. But unfortunately, there are many young ladies who still believe this theory.
The truth is, if you’re not ready to be pregnant again, don’t rely on breastfeeding for birth control, whether it’s just weeks after childbirth or months afterwards.
It should, however, be made clear that there is some truth to breastfeeding as a birth control theory. For it to work, three conditions have to be met; you are breastfeeding exclusively (and that means frequently, day and night), if your baby is younger than 6 months, and if your period hasn’t resumed. If so, breastfeeding can be effective in preventing pregnancy. Otherwise, you need to have a chat with your family planning unit.
Myth 3: Breastfeeding makes your baby clingy and dependent.
Well, I have found this to be quite the opposite, especially with my boys, who were very attached to the boobs, even though my younger girl seemed to be in a competition with her brother, over who would let go of the breast first.
My boys are as independent as they come, not interested in being clingy at all. In fact, as soon I weaned them all, not one of them was interested in booby-touching, that’s somewhat common. They were so eager to try the different flavours that are out there.
To buttress my point, I found studies which looked at this particular issue and discovered that babies who benefit from the attachment of breastfeeding tend to be more independent later in life.
That’s one myth busted and, truth be told, moms too can become clingy to their babies and breastfeed for longer than normal…whatever normal is these days.
Myth 4: Breastfeeding will make your boobs sag.
The fear of sagging boobs is the beginning of wisdom for some women, who now try all sorts of mechanisms to ensure their boobs stay on point. Pun intended.
The truth is breastfeeding is not the cause of sagging breasts; it’s all part of the joys of pregnancy.
The breasts often double in weight during pregnancy, whether or not you breastfeed. Any increase puts extra stress on the ligaments that support the breasts, and more stress equals extra sagging.
However, your age, BMI and pre-pregnancy bra size all affect how likely your boobs are to droop. You might just be lucky, these things work in your favour…or not.
Myth 5: If you give your baby bottles of pumped milk, he/she will refuse the breast.
I really didn’t want to add this one, as I have seen more babies gladly switch between the breast and the bottle with no problem, than I have seen babies turning up their noses at bottles, but there are people who still believe this to be true.
However, you can help things along by ensuring your baby has got a hang of breastfeeding first before introducing bottle.
Myth 6: What you eat affects the baby
Hmmm, now, this is a myth I can’t dismiss outrightly, because I knew that some of the foods I ate affected my children, and I had to reduce or cut them out.
Most of them were carbs and fruit juice, but I didn’t have any issues if I ate the fruits whole with the fiber.
But here’s what science says, by the time the foods you eat have been digested and used to make breast milk, the potentially upsetting elements have been broken down and shouldn’t affect your baby at all.
Many breastfeeding moms swear by the wait-and-see approach, hence, just continue with your usual diet but take note if your baby has a problem after you eat certain foods. If that happens, cut it out of your diet for a while.
Myth 7: You have to stop breastfeeding if you get sick.
Well, the truth is this doesn’t help baby at all, as before you stop breastfeeding, and feeling ill physically, you’ve already exposed your baby to the infection, says experts.
By breastfeeding while you’re sick, you pass along protective antibodies, helping your baby stay healthy but if you know you have had it with the whole breastfeeding business, then by all means, stop.
Myth 8: Exercise will turn your milk sour.
I have heard so many moms give this excuse for not getting on the treadmill, and I even thought it was not ideal for a breastfeeding mom to be exercising, out of fear her milk might go sour or even drop in supply.
However, I know better now. Exercise doesn’t affect your milk supply or taste, at least not where the baby is concerned.
Recent studies show that babies don’t notice any difference. One thing that could make them turn up their little noses though is saltiness left on your skin by sweat. Hence a shower right after your exercise session is called for, and don’t nurse while wearing your exercise bras. Nah!
These are some of the myths surrounding breastfeeding, and of course, the truth of the matter from the perspectives of doctors, researchers and my experience.
And in all of these, I cannot over emphasise the need to do what works for you, when the cacophony of advice goes up.
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