Monday, 28 October 2013

6 Breastfeeding Myths Busted

Breastfeeding. We've been doing it for centuries. The survival of the human race has depended on it since the beginning of time. Whether you've done it, plan on doing it, chosen not to do it, or just observed other people doing it, it seems that everyone has an opinion or a snippet of advice when it comes to feeding your baby.

We're now over six months into our breastfeeding journey. This by no means makes me an expert on the science behind it, but generally it's been a good experience and my baby has survived and thrived! It has, however, shocked me how much of people's (including my GP's) well-meaning advice is rooted in mis-information, twisted logic or general old-wives tales.

So, in a bid to set the record straight and to encourage you in your breastfeeding journey, I thought I would address some common misconceptions here.

1. "You're feeding her again?!"
Yes. I am. Because she needs it. 

It's common in the early days, or even later on during a growth spurt, for baby to feed for long periods of time and often. Sometimes it felt like all we did was breastfeed! But that's good. Your baby grows an awful lot in those first few weeks and she needs food. Lots of food.

2. "She's not hungry. You've only just fed her. She's got you wrapped round her little finger!"
I do not believe that a two week old baby has the mental capacity to manipulate you into giving her a comfort feed. If she's crying and all her other needs are met, feed her. It's not necessarily always because she's hungry. Your body produces milk according to how much your baby feeds. It responds to the suckling action, so even if you've only just fed her, it might be that she's getting your body ready to produce more milk. 

I also don't believe that there's anything wrong with comfort feeding (I know many would disagree). I've never deprived Ruby of a feed when she wants it - whether it's because she's hungry, tired, upset or sick. She's grown into a very confident, content baby who is happy to be passed round other people but who also knows that all of her needs will always be met. It also makes for a happy mum because her baby is very happy and healthy and doesn't cry.

3. "You should feed for 10 minutes on one side and 10 minutes on the other to avoid being lopsided."
No. The first milk that your baby gets from the breast is known as the fore milk. It isn't as high in fat content as the later hind milk. It could be considered to be a nice drink or starter before the main course. And who wants to go through life always eating starters and skipping the main course? No one! When you breastfeed, empty the breast before switching sides. This ensures that baby gets to the hind milk and has a nice, big, calorific meal.

4. "She's being sick a lot. She obviously doesn't need all the feeds you're giving her."
Babies' are sick sometimes. It's just reflux. Their digestive system is still developing, they're learning how to digest food. It's not a reason to withhold feeds. 

5. "Express milk so that you know how much baby is getting"
This was one from the GP. Ruby's weight gain has always been slow (but steady) so to be cautious the health visitor told me to visit the GP. Her advice was flawed. 

I told her that despite feeding every 2-3 hours for up to an hour that Ruby wasn't gaining weight as we would like. She told me that obviously the breastfeeding wasn't effective so I should give Ruby solely expressed milk from then on because at least I would know how much she was getting.

First of all, if your baby is having plenty of wet nappies and is satisfied after each feed (Ruby regularly falls asleep with milk dribbling down her face) and if, once you're well practiced, it's not a painful experience, then rest assured you are feeding effectively.

Secondly, feeding baby solely expressed milk will only tell you that at each feed she's drinking 4oz. It won't tell you how much your baby actually wants. It won't tell you how much your body is producing. And even with the best pump that money can buy, it might end up affecting your milk supply because no pump can perfectly mimic the action of a suckling baby.

It's worth mentioning that after my appointment I ignored this GP's advice before feeding it back to the health visitor who laughed at the absurdity of it. 

6. "She's three months old now, she should be feeding four hourly."
Breastfed babies will often settle into a four hourly routine when they're ready to. But they're not born with an internal clock that tells them when it's time to feed. They cry when they're hungry, I'm pretty sure they haven't checked the time! 

Yes, it's nice when they're in routine and they can then fit in around our personal schedules. If they're a bit older and you're trying to stretch out the feeds then check all other options - are they bored? Can they be distracted with something else for a while? Do they just want a change of scenery, a nap or a walk? If yes, great. If no, feed them! There's a reason why mothers produce milk - because it's in constant supply! It's there on demand so babies will demand it and expect to be given it - whether it fits into your routine or not.

***

So there you have it, six myths that I was presented with. Busted.

At the end of the day, I love breastfeeding. I haven't got any plans to stop at the moment. I know that there are many reasons to formula feed and for some people it's a personal choice, and all power to you! Whatever works! 

However, I absolutely believe in breastfeeding and with a family history of eczema, asthma and allergies I am committed to breastfeeding to prevent Ruby from suffering the same. I do think that every mum should be supported in breastfeeding if that's what they wish to do and myths like these only cause stress and worry to a first-time mum. If there's one piece of advice I could give to first time breastfeeders it would be this:
  • You are the mum. You know what your baby needs. Trust your instincts.
  • You can never over feed your baby and no harm will come to him. When he's full, he'll stop.
  • In those early days when you're both learning how to do it, when your nipples are cracked and bleeding, when you're dreading it because it's so painful, when you're sobbing through the feed and everything within you wants to give up, push through! It doesn't last forever, it's so short lived in the grand scheme of things and it will get easier. You'll be glad you did it and when you stop it will be your choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment