Breast milk contains a natural balance of carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, and proteins that your baby needs. It helps the baby’s immunity and reduces the risks of certain diseases. However, if you’re a new mother or a soon-to-be mother, you might have been on the receiving end of all kinds of random wisdom about breastfeeding. While some of this may be true, some of it probably isn’t. It’s best to be informed before you start breastfeeding, so you can sort the myth from the fact.
1) You have to wash your nipples before you breastfeed
This isn’t true. It’s true if you bottle-feed, obviously, because all kinds of bacteria can accumulate on the bottle lid, where you put either formula or your pumped breast milk. But feeding the baby from the breast itself doesn’t require a separate wash; the baby actually gains protection from infection through breastfeeding. Constantly washing your nipples can lead to stripping away important oils in the glands.
2) It’s better for the baby’s weight and intelligence
Breastfeeding is great for your child’s immunity, but if for some reason you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, it’s not going to be an issue. A child who’s been breast-fed has no advantage in terms of weight and intelligence over a child who’s been bottle-fed. There’s no reason to feel guilty if you’re unable to breastfeed.
3) It’s normal that it’s painful
While your breasts might be a bit sore when you first begin breastfeeding, and the initial days might be uncomfortable, there shouldn’t be a lot of real pain. If this is happening, it’s possible that the baby is not latching properly, or that there are other issues, in which case you might want to consult a doctor asap so the process can be made easier for you and the baby.
4) Drinking a lot of water is important
This is true because it can affect your milk production. However, don’t over hydrate or it can also have adverse effects. It’s important to stay hydrated, as normal, but don’t overcompensate.
5) You can only eat bland foods while breastfeeding
Babies catch on to their mothers’ food preferences right from the womb. Usually, there’s no reason to change your food habits once you start breastfeeding. Some allergy-causing foods could cause an issue if the newborn has an allergy to that food (like fish, or peanuts) but that can be remedied once it’s discovered. You can track your child’s food habits, but by and large, it’s safe to continue eating a balanced diet.
6) You shed weight faster if you breastfeed
This is true because through the process of breastfeeding women burn more calories than those who choose to bottle-feed. It releases hormones that alert your uterus to return to its former size. It’s a natural way of getting back to your former body shape.
7) You should avoid breastfeeding if you’re taking medicines
This is untrue, as few medications have the potential to actually harm your child. If there are some, they can be replaced with others. Before you take a new medication, you should consult your doctor, but you don’t need to stop breastfeeding because of it.
8) You shouldn’t breastfeed after you exercise
This is not true. You can work out to your heart’s content and still breastfeed after. This may be a myth because the salt and sweat on your nipples might make the breast milk taste a little less sweet to the baby, and therefore cause them to refuse the nipple. Many babies won’t even notice a difference in taste. If you’re really having issues, simply take a shower before breastfeeding, and there won’t be a problem anymore.
9) Avoid breastfeeding if you’re sick
It depends on what illness you have, but largely, you can continue breastfeeding. Any infections you have will result in antibodies to fight it, which will be passed on to the child. The baby’s immune system can, therefore, get stronger. If you’re very concerned about it, you can check with your doctor.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for the mother too, it reduces risks of ovarian and breast cancer and helps along with postpartum recovery. It can be hard in the beginning but many mothers find it to be a worthwhile experience through which the baby experiences the crucial skin-to-skin contact.