Breastfeeding myths: learn here what's true or not

Myths vs. Facts / Bienestar Sanitas Magazine Ed.133. Text: Maricielo Acero
Date: December 6, 2016

Breast milk is the best food for infants because it is what nature has provided for them. But, how much milk? How often? Should I breastfeed exclusively? Below, we clarify some concerns.

MYTH: Babies should eat at fixed times.

False. Breastfeeding is subject to the baby's demand. Initially, newborns wake up because they are hungry. They cry for the same reason. That is how the baby sets the eating schedule. After a couple of hours, which is the amount of time it takes to digest the milk, the infant will want more (usually late at night). Babies should be allowed to nurse until they spontaneously release the breast, because the nutrients and fats required for the infant's development come out at the end, after the infant ingests a sufficient amount of water. As it grows, the baby will gradually adapt to normal meal times. This is a natural process that you will not have to teach the baby.

MYTH: I should use formula if I don't produce enough milk.

Reality. At the beginning it is normal to produce only a small amount of milk, but this is all your baby needs to eat. Additionally, the first milk produced (colostrum) contains high amounts of proteins, fats, vitamins, and antibodies to nourish and protect the newborn from infection and allergies; hence, it is known as the first vaccine. However, during the first six months of breastfeeding, some factors, such as stress, tiredness, lack of fluid intake on the part of the mother, an incorrect nursing technique, or not breastfeed your baby frequently, which can lead to a gradual decrease in milk production. The easiest way to check to see that the milk's quality is the best is by making sure that the baby has a growth curve within the normal ranges.

MYTH: If I have small breasts, I can't breastfeed.

False. Breast size does not affect breastfeeding. Small breasts produce the same amount of milk as large ones do. Some women have inverted or very large nipples, which can make it difficult for the child to latch on, but they don't prevent breastfeeding. Incorrect positioning of the baby on the breast (latching) is what causes pain and chapping. The best way to prevent these annoyances is making sure the child opens his mouth thoroughly, allowing the lower lip to cover the greater part of the areola; the chin and the tip of his nose must be touching the breast, explains Margarita Mora, nurse adviser for the Colsanitas breastfeeding program. It is recommended that you wear comfortable clothing and avoid underwire bras or girdles that compress the breasts, because that can lead to the obstruction of the mammary glands.

MYTH: If I wash my breasts after each feeding, I can avoid chapping.

False. Quite the contrary. Washing the breasts and nipples too often can cause the skin to dry out, which can cause chapping. Water and soap remove the skin's natural oils, and the breasts become more vulnerable to the child's suction. Applying a small amount of breast milk to the nipples is the best way to moisturize them and prevent discomfort. Five minutes of sunshine also accelerates healing, if your skin is chapping. It has not been proven that applying creams, stretching the nipples, or massaging the nipples will help prevent damage while breastfeeding your child.

MYTH: My milk won't make my baby gain weight.

False. As mammals, breast milk is the most complete food source during the first six months of life. If the baby has a low weight for his age, technique and frequency with which the mother feeds the child should be reviewed. The child's pediatrician should also rule out the existence of any diseases that slow the child's growth and development.

MYTH: If I drink sugar water every day, my milk quantity will increase.

False. It is not that this drink in particular will improve the quality or quantity of breast milk, but that a mother's good hydration is essential for breastfeeding. In addition to fluids, you should also consume sufficient proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to guarantee good nutrition for the child.

MYTH: If I am taking medication, I can't breastfeed. 

False. Suspending lactation is only necessary with certain drugs. Your doctor will tell you which medications require you to stop breastfeeding. Many times what happens is that the milk is extracted and stored while the mother is in treatment. Nor is it true that a woman cannot breastfeed if she has the flu, diarrhea, or other temporary conditions. On the contrary, the baby receives the mother's defenses (antibodies) that the body naturally generates at that time, through the breast milk. If the child has a fever or is vomiting, the best antidote for any stomach discomfort is the mother's milk, says nurse Margarita Mora.

MYTH: The baby also needs other liquids.

False. The World Health Organization, WHO, confirms that the child should exclusively receive breast milk up to six months of age. Only then can you give juices, broths, and other food, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years. Nor it is recommended to give the child vitamin supplements, because breast milk contains all the nutrients the child needs for its development.

MYTH: To maintain lactation, I also need to pump milk.

False. This is only in specific situations, such as mammary congestion, breast pain, or when the baby cannot latch on. Frequent pumping, along with nursing the child, occasionally increases milk production.

MYTH: Before returning to work, I must teach the baby to drink from a bottle.

False. It is not recommended that you give breast milk with a bottle, because the suction is different. With the bottle the milk comes out by itself, while at the breast the baby normally has to use the muscles and other structures of the mouth and throat to remove the milk. If the milk is not coming directly from the breast, it is best to give the milk with a spoon or a small glass instead of using the bottle.