Thursday, 25 June 2009

Common Breastfeeding Myths

Myth: A breastfeeding mother should space her feedings so that her breasts will have time to refill.
Fact: A lactating mother's body is always making milk. Her breasts function in part as "storage tank," some holding more than others. The emptier the breasts, the faster the body makes milk to replace it; the fuller the breasts, the more production of milk slows down. If a mother consistently waits until her breasts "fill up" before she nurses, her body may get the message that it is making too much and may reduce total production.

Myth: It is the amount of milk that a baby takes in (quantitative), not whether it is human milk or formula (qualitative), that determines how long a baby can go between feedings.
Fact: Breastfed babies have faster gastric emptying times than formula-fed babies - approximately 1.5 hours vs up to 4 hours - due to the smaller size of the protein molecules in human milk. While intake quantity is one factor in determining feeding frequency, the type of milk is equally important. Anthropologic studies of mammalian milk confirm that human babies were intended to feed frequently and have done so throughout most of history.

Myth: Breastfeeding mothers must always use both breasts at each feeding.
Fact: It is more important to let baby finish the first breast first, even if that means that he doesn't take the second breast at the same feeding. Hindmilk is accessed gradually as the breast is drained. Some babies, if switched prematurely to the second breast, may fill up on the lower-calorie foremilk from both breasts rather than obtaining the normal balance of foremilk and hindmilk, resulting in infant dissatisfaction and poor weight gain. In the early weeks, many mothers offer both breasts at each feeding to help establish the milk supply.

Myth: The mother should not be a pacifier for the baby.
Fact: Comforting and meeting sucking needs at the breast is nature's original design. Pacifiers (such as dummies, soothers) are literally a substitute for the mother when she can't be available. Other reasons to pacify a baby primarily at the breasts include superior oral-facial development, prolonged lactational amenorrhea, avoidance of nipple confusion and stimulation of an adequate milk supply to ensure higher rates of breastfeeding success.

Myth: Mothers who hold their babies too much will spoil them.
Fact: Babies who are held often cry fewer hours a day and exhibit more security as they mature.

Myth: Nursing a baby after 12 months is of little value because the quality of breast milk begins to decline after 6 months.
Fact: The composition of human milk changes to meet the changing needs of baby as he matures. Even when baby is able to take solids, human milk is the primary source of nutrition during the first year. It becomes a supplement to solids during the second year. In addition, it takes between 2 and 6 years for a child's immune system to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered.

Myth: Many women do not produce enough milk.
Fact: Not true! The vast majority of women produce more than enough milk. Indeed, an overabundance of milk is common. Most babies that gain too slowly, or lose weight, do so not because the mother does not have enough milk, but because the baby does not get the milk that the mother has. The usual reason that the baby does not get the milk that is available is that he is poorly latched onto the breast. This is why it is so important that the mother be shown, on the first day, how to latch a baby on properly, by someone who knows what they are doing.

Myth: A breastfeeding baby needs extra water in hot weather.
Fact: Not true! Breastmilk contains all the water a baby needs.

Myth: Pumping is a good way of knowing how much milk the mother has.
Fact: Not true! How much milk can be pumped depends on many factors, including the mother's stress level. The baby who nurses well can get much more milk than his mother can pump. Pumping only tells you have much you can pump.

Myth: Modern formulas are almost the same as breastmilk.
Fact: Not true! The same claim was made in 1900 and before. Modern formulas are only superficially similar to breastmilk. Every correction of a deficiency in formulas is advertised as an advance. Fundamentally, formulas are inexact copies based on outdated and incomplete knowledge of what breastmilk is. Formulas contain no antibodies, no living cells, no enzymes, no hormones. They contain much more aluminum, manganese, cadmium, lead and iron than breastmilk. They contain significantly more protein than breastmilk. The proteins and fats are fundamentally different from those in breastmilk. Formulas do not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from day 1 to day 7 to day 30, or from woman to woman, or from baby to baby. Your breastmilk is made as required to suit your baby. Formulas are made to suit every baby, and thus no baby. Formulas succeed only at making babies grow well, usually, but there is more to breastfeeding than nutrients.

Myth: If the mother has an infection she should stop breastfeeding.
Fact: Not true! With very, very few exceptions, the mother’s continuing to breastfeed will actually protect the baby. By the time the mother has fever (or cough, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, etc) she has already given the baby the infection, since she has been infectious for several days before she even knew she was sick. The baby's best protection against getting the infection is for the mother to continue breastfeeding. If the baby does get sick, he will be less sick if the mother continues breastfeeding. Besides, maybe it was the baby who gave the infection to the mother, but the baby did not show signs of illness because he was breastfeeding. Also, breast infections, including breast abscess, though painful, are not reasons to stop breastfeeding. Indeed, the infection is likely to settle more quickly if the mother continues breastfeeding on the affected side.

Myth: Breastfeeding does not provide any protection against becoming pregnant.
Fact: Not true! It is not a foolproof method, but no method is. In fact, breastfeeding is not a bad method of child spacing, and gives reliable protection especially during the first six months after birth. It almost as good as the pill if the baby is under six months of age, if breastfeeding is exclusive, and if the mother has not yet had a normal menstrual period after giving birth. After the first six months, the protection is less, but still present, and on average, women breastfeeding into the second year of life will have a baby every two to three years even without any artificial method of contraception.

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