Everything you need to know about breastfeeding

By Drum Digital
01 July 2014

Don’t be misled by false information about breastfeeding! Our expert separates myth from fact.

Don’t be misled by false information about breastfeeding! Our expert separates myth from fact.

Midwife Joann Lugt teaches antenatal courses at Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town and says she was inspired to write down some of the myths regarding breastfeeding – and the truth behind each – after she kept hearing the same wrong information repeated back to her from unsuspecting parents in her classes.

“Unfortunately, not all nurses are that clued up on breastfeeding. They mean well, but new parents should make sure they educate themselves before they accept just any advice. The truth is that breastfeeding is a skill, and once you’ve got it down, it’s nothing – but you need to inform yourself.”

Here are just 10 of the myths Lugt says she’s heard many times:

  1. If I struggle, it means I don’t have milk/can’t breastfeed. False. “Breastfeeding might be instinctive for your newborn baby, but mothers have to see it as a learned skill. It takes a bit of time, practise and determination, but that is normal for every mother and if you persevere, you will most likely succeed.”
  2. If my baby is feeding every hour or suddenly starts to feed every hour after being on a schedule, it means I don’t have enough milk. False. “The wonderful thing about babies is that they regulate the quality and quantity of breast milk. More recent studies have shown that the saliva in an infant’s mouth actually ‘communicates’ with your milk-producing glands to tell them what the baby needs. The more a baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. It could be that your baby is going through a growth spurt and that he is drinking more in order to increase your milk production.” She says it’s also very normal for newborn babies to feed this often, because they’re “training” your breasts to produce enough milk for them.
  3. I have flat nipples, so I have to use nipple shields. False. Joanne says the only nipple shape that might experience a problem with breastfeeding (though it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to) are inverted nipples. “If you’re unsure about the shape of your nipples, sprinkle some cold water on them. If they harden and either stand out or stay flat, you are perfectly fine. If they invert and press into the breast, then you may need some help.”
  4. My milk looks watery and that means it’s not strong enough to feed my baby. False. As mentioned in point two, the baby dictates what breast milk consists of. Not only that, but breast milk is tailored to give your baby exactly what they need. “Often the first nutritious drops may appear watery and while the baby feeds the fattier milk comes.”
  5. It’s normal to have sore nipples. False. “Breastfeeding should not be painful. If it is, something is wrong.” She says pain is usually a sign of a bad latch (the position of the baby’s mouth over the breast) and adds it’s vital the baby has a good latch at every single feed. “One feed with a poor latch is enough to damage or hurt your nipples and that will only make the following feeds more difficult.” If you have trouble latching or pain while feeding, get effective help straightaway.
  6. Breastfeeding will make my breasts sag. False. During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces a hormone called relaxin, making it easier for ligaments to stretch to make space for baby and help you through birth. Cooper’s ligaments are responsible for keeping your breasts “perky”, and these ligament are also affected by relaxin. “Wear a supportive bra during pregnancy. Your breasts become heavier when you are pregnant, which puts strain on the Cooper’s ligaments and may cause them to stretch during the pregnancy, and this may lead to the breasts sagging. Breastfeeding does not cause saggy breasts although the size of the breast may change during and after your season of feeding your baby.”
  7. I have to prepare my breasts for breastfeeding. False. “The skin of your nipples and areola (area around the nipple) is already perfect for breastfeeding. This skin needs to be elastic and able to stretch while your baby latches. ‘Toughening up’ the nipple with remedies like lemon juice, scrubbing or lying in the sun can be harmful and does not prevent sore nipples. Only a good latch at every feed prevents sore nipples.”
  8.  I have to top up my baby’s feeds with formula milk when I go back to work. False. “Remember the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce. If you’re going to start supplementing, it means your milk production will go down. Rather pump once or twice during the day depending on how many hours you are at work. Store this milk for your baby.”
  9. Breastfeeding your baby until six months is more than enough. False. While your baby will have got a lot from the first few months of feeding, the official recommendation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) is exclusive breastfeeding till six months. You can then start introducing other foods and continue breastfeeding for as long as it works for you and baby. Your breast milk is the most perfect food for your baby and the benefits of this excellent nutrition are there for the entire time you breastfeed, so the longer, the better.
  10. I have to bottle-feed my baby because he/she can’t latch/I should leave my baby in the nursery to be bottle-fed by nurses while I’m still in hospital. False. Lugt says latching to a bottle can complicate breastfeeding. “The way a baby latches and the rate of milk flow from a bottle is different to the breast,” she says. “You don’t want to cause confusion in latching while you and your baby are establishing breastfeeding. It is also way better for you and your baby to ‘room in’, staying close together, even at night, while in hospital. This helps you to get to know your baby’s needs and avoids the baby being stressed by separation from you which is harmful to them.”

Get help!

  • If you’re struggling to breastfeed, Lugt says the best thing to do is get help straight away. She recommends lalecheleague.org. They have mothers’ groups across the world, and also in South Africa.
  • Help can also be found at a good baby clinic, from a midwife or lactation consultant.

- Dalena Theron

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