There are so many breastfeeding myths to be debunked, it’s hard to know where to start!
Maybe you’ve been told your itty bitties aren’t up to the challenge (NOT true!). Or that breastfeeding after 12 months is a waste of time (another big whopper!). Either way, it seems that everyone has an opinion.
So, we have teamed up with industry experts Medela to get the real deal on breastfeeding.
By Mama Disrupt®
Stepping it up for breastfeeding //
World Breastfeeding Week is a global campaign to raise awareness of, and support for, breastfeeding. The week runs each year from 1 – 7 August, and 2022’s theme was Step Up For Breastfeeding – Educate and Support.
Breastfeeding benefits //
How amazing is breast milk? If you choose to breastfeed your baby, these are some of the rewards you’ll reap:
- Breast milk is more than just food. During the first few weeks it protects your fragile newborn and starts to develop their digestive and immune systems.
- Breast milk contains many types of live cells – including stem cells. These have the remarkable ability to develop into different kinds of cells.
- When either you or your baby become ill, your body produces breast milk containing more antibodies and white blood cells. This helps to fight the infection.
- Your breast milk contains a spectrum of live bioactive components. These are elements that affect different functions in the body. Added together, they mean your milk has a role far, far beyond nutrition alone. It also has medicinal qualities that play a crucial part in your baby’s health now and later in life.
- Your diet during pregnancy influences the flavour of your amniotic fluid. Once your baby is born, the food you eat will also affect the taste of your milk. Experiencing lots of flavours through your milk can enhance your baby’s enjoyment of different tastes later when you start introducing solids.
Breastfeeding myths debunked //
MYTH #1: “Breastfeeding makes your breasts sag”
That’s not what the plastic surgeons say (and they should know!). They tell us that while the risk of sagging increases with each pregnancy, they found little difference between the breasts of women who breastfed and those who didn’t.
Sagging, or breast ptosis to give it its scientific name, is likely to be caused by a loss of skin elasticity due to pregnancy itself. It’s also influenced by factors such as age, history of significant weight loss, and smoking. So, if the risk of sagging is putting you off breastfeeding, now you know it won’t make it any worse!
MYTH #2: “If you have small breasts, you won’t produce enough milk to feed your baby.”
Negative! Breast size is caused by the amount of fatty and fibrous tissue in addition to the amount of milk-producing glandular tissue. Breast milk production is hormonally stimulated, and increases with the baby’s demand. It’s very clever – the baby is in control of the amount of milk produced, and the breast size makes no difference at all.
Very simply, increasing the frequency and effectiveness of breastfeeding sessions increases the milk supply. There are many things that can affect the production of milk. These include stress, tiredness or depression, but the size of your breast size is not a contributing factor. Itty bitties or mamajamas, they’re all incredible!
Milk storage capacity in the breast may differ, so some mums may have a larger or smaller capacity to store milk. This may lead to your baby nursing less or more frequently. But as long as the breasts are being drained effectively, your body will keep producing more breast milk.
MYTH #3: “It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt.”
This one may be surprising, but no – breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful! While many women have some initial discomfort related to getting the baby to latch onto the nipple properly, breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful. If you do feel some pain, there are lots of resources for you to reach out to, such as:
- Australian Breastfeeding Association – ABA helpline
- The Maternal & Child Health Line
- Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand – private lactation consults
- Maternal and Child Health Nurse local centers – Contact your local council
- Local hospital breastfeeding clinics – Phone your local hospital for an appointment
Some mums do comment that the first few times they breastfeed, it feels ‘different’, but that shouldn’t be a surprise since you’ve likely never experienced a liquid coming through the milk ducts and out your nipples before.
Challenges are often related to the infant, not the mother. Babies may not be able to latch properly for example, so mothers shouldn’t automatically assume that it is their breast or breast milk production that is the problem.
MYTH #4: “Breastfeeding a baby after 12 months is of little value because the quality of breast milk begins to decline after six months.”
Breast milk doesn’t decline in quality over time. It’s true that breast milk composition changes throughout the breastfeeding duration, but this is just another sign of how perfectly breast milk has developed to continue meeting your baby’s developing needs.
It’s important to remember that many of your baby’s systems will develop over years, not simply 6 or 12 months, which is why breast milk helps to continue to meet those developing requirements.
The reason we add complementary foods to breast milk at 6 months isn’t because breast milk is no longer important, it’s simply because your baby’s nutritional and caloric needs are no longer met by breast milk alone.
Your breast milk will continue to provide your baby immune protection, as well as nutrition, the entire time you continue providing your baby with breast milk. This is important because it takes years before a child’s immune system matures fully. Some parts won’t be fully developed until they are over 10 years old!