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6 common breastfeeding myths, debunked

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and an expert lactation consultant helps bust all the myths surrounding this beautiful phenomenon

Breastfeeding, in addition to taking care of a baby's hunger, helps build a bond between the mother and the infant
Breastfeeding, in addition to taking care of a baby's hunger, helps build a bond between the mother and the infant (Kevin Liang)

Am I making enough milk for my baby? If my baby takes the bottle, will it still breastfeed? Will my breasts sag due to breastfeeding? Will the size of the breast affect the milk supply? If you are a new mother or about to have a baby, these questions are bound to give you sleepless nights. But rest easy and read on as we bust some of the most common myths surrounding breastfeeding with expert inputs from Dia Jadwani, an International Board-Certified lactation consultant who runs a community called ‘Breastfeeding Support’ on coto, a social community platform for women.

Myth #1: Babies who take the bottle cannot breastfeed.
Fact: Every baby is unique, and most breastfed babies can easily switch back and forth between the bottle and the breast, though they may prefer one over the other. 

Dia Jadwani explains: “It is feasible to juggle both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. In fact, this approach often proves invaluable for working mothers who're seeking to maintain the nourishing benefits of breast milk while managing their schedules. The feasibility, however, is contingent upon the age of the baby. If a bottle is introduced early on before breastfeeding is established, then babies do tend to develop a preference for the bottle as the flow is faster, and reject the breast. Also, sucking at the breast to draw milk requires more complex movements of the mouth's oral muscles, which is immature in bottle feeding. Babies need to be trained to breastfeed. Getting help from a lactation consultant becomes highly crucial during this period.”

Also read: 4 common mistakes to avoid when eating during pregnancy

Myth #2: Bottle feeding affects breast milk supply.
Fact: Breast milk production works purely on the demand and supply phenomenon. The more you feed, the more your body will produce.

Dia Jadwani explains: "The more a mother empties the breast, the more milk she will make. The breast can be emptied either by effective breastfeeding or by effective pumping. If a mother thinks she is making less milk and introduces formula, there will be low milk supply. Sadly, her milk supply gets affected within 24 hours if the baby gets formula daily. So along with formula milk, it is essential to pump during this time. Also, formula is heavy for the baby's gut and has them sleeping for longer hours than when they are on breast milk, which is unhealthy. In addition, if a baby sleeps longer due to formula feeding, the mother might mistakenly think she's producing less milk."

Myth #3: The size of the breast affects milk supply.
Fact: Breast size has absolutely no connection with the milk supply. It has been studied that women with smaller breasts can produce more milk than heavy-busted women.

Dia Jadwani explains: “Every mother, irrespective of the size of her breasts, can make enough milk if her baby is breastfeeding on demand. A woman with small breasts might have to feed her baby more frequently. That however doesn’t affect her ability to produce milk. A woman’s breasts have the ability to make milk 24x7 thanks to the hormones in the body which are constantly functioning.”

Myth #4: Women with flat or inverted nipples cannot breastfeed.
Fact: Breast and nipple sizes vary for each woman, and all of them can breastfeed effectively.

Dia Jadwani explains: “Breastfeeding is like puzzle pieces coming together. In this case, it is a baby’s mouth attaching to a mother’s breast and effectively removing milk from it. Frequently, a baby's mouth easily latches onto both flat and inverted nipples. However, there are instances where certain babies struggle to latch onto inverted nipples. It’s really about finding a compatibility between the two. If the right help is given to feeding mothers at the right time and correct latching techniques are taught, they will end up breastfeeding beautifully. In this case, working with a lactation professional can certainly help.”

Also read: Reasons why you must junk that junk food from your kid's plate

Myth #5: Breasts sag due to breastfeeding.
Fact: Breastfeeding does not affect the size and shape and size of the breasts. A woman’s breasts sag when the ligaments inside them stretch. This could be due to several reasons, including excessive weight gain or loss, ageing and genetics, amongst others.

Dia Jadwani explains: “The structure of a woman’s breasts are maintained thanks to connective tissues called Cooper's ligaments. These tissues lift and support the breasts and keep them in shape. Over time, however, these ligaments stretch out, causing the breasts to sag. Pregnancy is one of the main reasons why the ligaments stretch. So even if a woman doesn't breastfeed, there are high chances of her breasts sagging simply because she got pregnant. Aging is another reason that causes these ligaments to stretch out.”

Myth #6: Latching on is a natural and easy process for a newborn.
Fact: Breastfeeding is crucial for a newborn, not only to meet its hunger but also for developing a bond with the mother. However, not all newborns naturally take to latching. At times, it might need help from a lactation consultant.

Dia Jadwani explains: “Attempts to make the baby latch are made right in the first hour post-birth, where the baby is put in skin-to-skin contact with the breast in the OT. The reason for establishing this connection is not solely for the latch; it's got to do with developing a positive association with breasts. Doing so makes the baby recognise that it's a source of love, comfort, and nourishment. Further, sucking helps them regulate their system and calm themselves down. Sucking is crucial for a mother, too, as it helps her connect with the newborn and increases milk supply. So, even if milk isn’t visible till the third day, the baby should be put on the breast from the first day, for every 2 hours including at night, along with supplementation.”  

Shweta Dravid is a self confessed explorer who writes on travel, health, wellness, mindfulness and life truths.

Also read: 10 ways breastfeeding can be good for you and your child



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