Quick quiz! Answer true or false: “Your breasts are so small, you have no milk lah”… “breast milk is not as good as formula milk”… “I have inverted nipples, I cannot breastfeed”. Don’t know the answers? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Even mums who have successfully breastfed their first babies can get flummoxed when difficulties arise with their second child. Mrs Wong Boh Boi, the Assistant Director (Clinical) and Senior Lactation Consultant of the ParentCraft Centre at Thomson Medical Centre, helps to sort the facts from the myths.
MYTH: Women with inverted nipples can’t breastfeed.
FACT! Women with inverted nipples can breastfeed if the problem is corrected with a niplette at mid –trimester. A nipple shield, nipple puller or a pump can also be used.
MYTH: Women with small breasts have less milk than those with larger breasts.
FACT! Yes, the volume in certain cases can be affected, but you can still breastfeed.
MYTH: My mother did not breastfeed me, I probably can’t breastfeed my baby either.
FACT! Not true. Early initiation is vital and you should get professional help as soon as possible if needed.
MYTH: My newborn keeps crying and wanting to drink. I don’t have enough milk for her!
FACT! Yes it is possible, but check and do not assume that there is not enough milk. Observe and see if there are any other possible problems.
MYTH: Breastfeeding hurts. It’s normal.
FACT! When a mother first initiates breastfeeding, she may feel some pressure, but it should not be at the level of severe pain. If it hurts, she should first check the latching.
MYTH: I must breastfeed for 20 minutes on one side, then switch to the other side for another 20 minutes.
FACT! There is no fixed timing, but most babies will not able to suck continuously for more than 20 minutes. The baby will tend to nibble and use the mum’s breast as a pacifier for comfort. From previous research, if baby is sucking effectively, the timing per side can be as short as 15 to 20 minutes. However, this is only a guideline to ensure that the baby suckles from both sides.
MYTH: A breastfeeding mother will never know how much her baby is drinking, or whether baby has had enough.
FACT! When the baby has had enough, he will show signs of having drunk enough and generally be satisfied after a full feed. He will rest in between feeds for couple of hours or even longer. He will be gaining weight, and producing at least six wet diapers and three soiled ones per day.
MYTH: Breastfeeding babies do not get enough iron.
FACT! The recommendation is for babies to have 8 to 10mg or iron per day. However, most babies will not require an iron supplement till they are six months of age. The amount of iron present in breast milk (Colostrum: 0.5 to 0.8 mg/l. Mature milk: 0.2 to 0.3 mg/l) is enough. This does not seem like much, but most iron (70 per cent) in breast milk is absorbed, compared to formula, where only 30 per cent is absorbed.
MYTH: If I am sick and taking medication, I cannot breastfeed.
FACT! It is important to let the doctor know that you are breastfeeding, as this may affect his choice of drugs for you. Don’t worry, there are medications that are compatible with breastfeeding. Most common medication is okay to take unless the mother is allergic to it. But do try to take them only after breastfeeding.
MYTH: If my baby is sick, she needs water, I cannot breastfeed her.
FACT! If baby is sick, breastfeeding is the best way to feed baby as the breast milk contains 87.8 per cent of water.
MYTH: My nipples are bleeding, I cannot breastfeed.
FACT! Correct the problem and continue with breastfeeding. In extreme cases mothers seek advice from a Lactation Consultant. Blood is edible but not easily digested, so it may irritate the baby’s stomach and make him throw up.
MYTH: Breastfeeding mothers must eat more in order to make milk.
FACT! Not true. A well balanced diet will do. The mother should not be dieting.