World Breastfeeding Week is the ideal time to explore some of the myths that appear whenever breastfeeding is mentioned and which do much to undermine new mums. As a mid-wife for nearly fifty years, I have seen them all. Here are some of the most common:
Myth 1. Many mothers CAN’T breastfeed
Fact: MOST Mums CAN Breastfeed…but may need help and support in the early days (especially in the UK). Midwives, health visitors or peer supporters have usually done extra training in breastfeeding management, but for specialist support Lactation Consultants are the Gold Standard. You can find consultants local to you via the website. NCT, La Leche League, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and the breastfeeding network are also valuable sources of help.
Myth 2. All mums get sore at the beginning
Fact: Being sore is nearly always related to the baby’s attachment to the breast. Get that right and it wont hurt any more. The exceptions are babies with tight tongue-tie, a baby (or mum) with thrush, and a mum with Raynauds Phenomenon. If you suspect you or your baby may have one of these conditions, see your GP as soon as possible.
Myth 3. Mums should only use one breast per feed
Fact: All babies should be offered BOTH breasts at each feed, but the baby should finish the first side before being offered the other if he still shows signs of hunger. This is because babies have their own appetite control mechanism and because there is more fat in the milk towards the end of a feed.
Myth 4. Breasfeeding babies often don’t poo for several days
Fact: Breastfeedig babies should poo 2-4 times a day until they are about 3-4 months old. If the baby is not poo-ing frequently enough, it could be a sign that he is not receiving enough milk and the mum will need expert help. Correct positioning and attachment are crucial to success.
Myth 5. Baby poo should look like chicken korma
Fact: It should look bright lemon yellow after most feeds. The wrong colour shows that all is not well with positioning and attachment, the mum will need help to improve it
Myth 6. Lots of breastfed babies get colic or reflux and need Ranitidine or Gaviscon
Fact: Colic Symptoms are usually the result of the positioning and attachment not being right, which is a much bigger subject – to be explored another time!
Myth 7. Breastmilk isn’t rich enough for babies and most babies need to be supplemented, if only to give mums a ‘rest’
Fact: Mothers milk is always perfect for her baby. If she is struggling, professional help can be given while family and friends help with the ironing, shopping and cooking. Supplementation would depend on individual circumstances and should be the last resort not the first.
Myth 8. Babies can be allergic to their mother’s milk
Fact: Not true, but any babies with symptoms that suggest this would benefit from help by a Lactation Consultant to identify the cause of the problem. Symptoms such as spots or scaly skin, cradle cap, colic and/or explosive and often green stools are, however, also synonymous with poor attachment, so it is important to for mum to see a professional in order to work out the root of the problem.