Women's health and hygiene concerns around menstruation and breastfeeding are still taboo subjects in many communities. There are a lot of breastfeeding myths that new moms in our country often tend of believe. Breast milk contains essential energy and nutrients that an infant needs, and protects them from infections and diseases. According to Dr Bindhu KS, consultant, gynaecology, Apollo Hospitals, Mumbai, you should exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months, ideally every two to three hours.
On the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), we round up 7 common breastfeeding myths you should stop believing in:
Myth: Pain while breastfeeding is normal
Fact: If you're a first-time mother or you've delivered just a few days before, you may experience some amount of pain, but if it persists, something's not right. "The pain could be caused by improper latching technique, where the baby is just sucking at the nipple but not taking the areola into his/her mouth," Dr Bindhu says. An improper latching technique can lead to pain and cracks in the nipple.
Myth: If you're sick, you should stop breastfeeding
Fact: If you have a fever, cold or viral infection, it's safe to continue breastfeeding. "In fact, breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from infections," she explains. Unless you have been diagnosed with HIV or open tuberculosis, go ahead and breastfeed without worrying about passing on any disease.
Myth: Breast engorgement is normal
Fact: Breast enlargement is normal but engorgement is not. "It can occur when milk is produced but not let out for long hours, causing your breast ducts get full of milk," says Dr Bindhu. This can also give rise to a painful condition called mastitis.
Myth: Mothers with small breasts may not be able to breastfeed properly
Fact: "The breast size is decided by the fat tissue and has nothing to do with the glandular tissue which carries milk to the nipple," she clarifies.
Myth: It's unsafe to exercise if you're lactating
Fact: There's no reason to stop taking care of your body while you breastfeed. "But if you have a rigorous work out session, lactic acid is released in your body, which can make the breast milk sour. In such a case, just let out the first few drops of breast milk before feeding your baby," recommends Dr Bindhu.
Myth: You need to clean yourself before breastfeeding
Fact: "Breast milk contains protective anti-bodies, so you don't need to worry about your baby catching an infection. If you wash yourself before breastfeeding, you actually end up getting rid of natural lubricants," she says.
Myth: Some moms may not produce enough breast milk
Fact: Breast milk production initially depends on hormones and triggers like the child latching on to the breast and suckling. "Later, if you alternate between feeding breast milk and formula milk, or you go without feeding for long hours, then the trigger stimulation is lacking. So your production might be affected. It can also suffer if you don't drink enough water," she says.