World breastfeeding week: Myths busted for new and expecting mothers

While breastfeeding is not a compulsion, it is an informed feeding decision made by every mother. This decision can only be made when a mother has access to the right information about all the available feeding options that will empower her, her child and her family.

It’s the duty of primary health care providers to educate new mothers and their families about the pros and cons of breastfeeding, expressed breastmilk (own/from human milk bank) and formula feeding.

Does breastfeeding affect the mother's health?

Breastfeeding provides immense short- and long-term health benefits in terms of the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the mother and child.

Short-term benefits of breastfeeding:

  • It helps in the early expulsion of the placenta when breastfeeding is initiated within the first hour of birth.
  • Helping the uterus contract and return to the pre-pregnancy stage.
  • Reducing post-delivery bleeding.
  • Acts as a contraceptive.*

(*only in case of exclusively breastfeeding the baby (including night feeding) along with other preconditions to be met of no return of menses and baby should be < six months of age)

Long-term benefits of breastfeeding:

  • It helps the mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight.
  • It reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
  • It also lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and post-menopausal osteoporosis in the future.
  • It’s convenient, saves time and money, requires no preparation required and is eco-friendly, too.

Also read: Mothers can safely breastfeed their newborns even if they test positive for COVID-19

Myths about breastfeeding

There are several myths related to breastfeeding. Let's talk about a few of those.

1. Breastfeeding is easy

Breastfeeding is a new skill that mothers learn and it's important to remember that learning a new skill is never easy. There will be a lot of hurdles on the way, but with practical support and the right information, mothers will be able to overcome those. Breastfeeding takes time and practice for both mother and baby, thus the mother needs space and support at home and work.

2. Mothers should strictly feed in a sitting position

A mother can feed in any position comfortable for her, be it lying down or in a sitting position, as there is no change in the baby's posture; it's only the mother's position that changes.

3. Excessive crying of babies is associated with breastmilk insufficiency

Crying is one of the languages through which babies can communicate. Whether the breastmilk is sufficient or not for the baby is only communicated via an adequacy test through urine and weight.

If an exclusively breastfed baby is urinating at least six to seven times in 24 hours and weight gain is about minimum + 500 gm/month, then it indicates the breastmilk is sufficient.

4. Nipple pain/soreness is normal while breastfeeding or breastfeeding hurts

Many mothers do experience some discomfort in the first few days after birth when they are learning to breastfeed, but with the right positioning and attachment of the baby to the breast, nipple pain and soreness can be prevented. But if the mother is constantly facing these issues, then she should take the help of a lactation consultant/counsellor.

The author is a lactation consultant at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai

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