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Debunking common breastfeeding myths   |11 August 2023

Debunking common breastfeeding myths   

Even before a baby is born some parents may have already decided on their feeding choice. Some may have had a previous experience, whether good or bad, and may make their current decision based on that.

For others, this may be their first child but they may already have done ‘extensive’ research on the topic on the internet or received countless advice from well-intended family members or friends or may simply have their beliefs or views on what they think is the best way to feed their baby.

There are many reasons why a woman may choose not to breastfeed. Some of the most common reasons reported by mothers include the belief that they are not producing enough or any breastmilk and therefore their baby will not grow well; the baby is continuously hungry even after breastfeeding; it is painful; it is time-consuming as the baby seems to feed more regularly; that their breasts will become ‘saggy (a view also often shared by their partner) or that they lack support in order to successfully breastfeed their child.

Regardless of the feeding choice that you make in the end, it is important to make the best choice that works for you and your baby. There are many myths that surround breastfeeding. They are often the reasons why a woman may be discouraged to even try breastfeeding or they may consider that breastfeeding ‘just isn’t for them’.

But before you completely rule off breastfeeding and jump on the band wagon of formula feeding, let’s take a look at the facts behind some common myths so that you can make an informed choice on how to feed your baby.


The truth about breastfeeding

Myth 1: It’s normal for breastfeeding to be painful

Aside from slight tenderness or discomfort in the first few days while initiating breastfeeding, the process itself should never hurt. If you constantly experience pain during breastfeeding, then that’s a sign that something is wrong.

One of the most common causes of pain is sore nipples which usually happens if the baby is not positioned or attached properly on the breast. Getting support from a health professional can usually help mothers overcome this issue.


Myth 2: If your breasts are small, flat and inverted then you can’t breastfeed

First things first. Babies feed from the breast and not the nipples. Although flat or inverted nipples may pose a challenge for some women, learning specific techniques and getting the right support can usually help make breastfeeding more manageable. Moreover, small breasts can make just as much milk as large breasts. Therefore, regardless of the shape or size of your breast or nipples, your body makes enough milk for your baby.


Myth 3: Your baby won’t stop crying because you don’t have enough breastmilk

It is not unusual for us to assume that the moment a baby cry it means that they are hungry. Although crying is a late sign of hunger, a baby can cry for many other reasons as well. It might be that they need their diaper changed, or they have to pass gas or they just want to be held for comfort.

The best way for you to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to check how many wet and soiled diapers they have in a day and to monitor how their weight is tracking. If your baby is growing well and feeding regularly then it shouldn’t be a cause for concern.


Myth 4: Eating certain foods will increase your milk supply

Despite what you’ve heard, lentils, beer, cow’s milk and green papaya will not increase your milk supply. Having a varied and nutritious diet however is important to ensure that your milk is rich in energy and nutrients for your baby.

Milk supply is usually influenced by the frequency of feeding. The most important thing to remember is that the body produces more milk based on demand for that milk. The best way to keep up your milk supply therefore is to regularly feed your baby and ensure that they are latched on correctly to the breast.

Although many women perceive that they have low milk supply, it is worth noting however that some women may have difficulty with their milk supply due to a medical problem but these can usually be resolved with the correct intervention.


Myth 5: You shouldn’t breastfeed when you are sick

Mothers might be worried to breastfeed their baby when they have a minor cold or flu because they think they will infect their baby. In reality your breastmilk is your baby’s protection against whatever infection that you have as the antibodies that your body produces to fight the infection passes into the breastmilk to the baby.

Even before you started getting symptoms it is most likely that the baby was already exposed to the microbe. By breastfeeding you are now helping his/ her developing immune system fight off the illness.

Even so you should still ensure that you get the correct medication which is safe while breastfeeding, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and eat well. You should also maintain good hygienic practices like covering your cough and sneeze and washing your hands regularly.


Myth 6: Breastfeeding causes sagging breasts

Many women choose to opt out of breastfeeding because they believe that it will cause their breasts to sag. This is untrue. Pregnancy leads to changes in the size and structure of a woman’s breast (and body in general). This can cause the ligaments that support your breasts to stretch and it can begin as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. These weakened ligaments can cause the breasts to sag irrespective of breastfeeding due to gravity, usually worsening with each pregnancy.

In saying this we need to bear in mind a host of other factors as well. Two factors that none of us can escape from are our genes and ageing. Both can influence the skin’s natural elasticity. In addition, changes in the structure and shape of the breast is especially common after menopause as a result of hormonal changes. Being obese, having a sedentary lifestyle or losing weight too rapidly can stretch and shrink the skin surrounding your breasts, leading to loss of elasticity and muscle tone.

You can prevent or alleviate sagging breasts by drinking plenty of water and keeping your skin moisturised to keep it hydrated and supple. You should try and maintain a healthy weight or gradually lose weight by eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity. Poor posture or slouching gives gravity a chance to pull at your breasts. Stand or sit with your back and shoulders straight to give your breasts a natural lift.

After pregnancy or breastfeeding the breasts may take up to six months or longer to return to their original size, they may remain larger or become smaller. Just as you took time to grow your baby in your womb (9 months) then you shouldn’t expect your breasts (or body) to look the same as before pregnancy in a day. The bottom line is that you will not be sacrificing the appearance of your breast by breastfeeding your baby.


Breastfeeding is the best choice you can make….

Getting the support that you need in the early days can make a huge difference in your overall breastfeeding experience. This can be from the health professionals in the maternity facility who can guide you on how to position the baby properly on the breast or from family members who can assist at home with the house chores.

Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a learned behaviour. Learning about the baby’s early feeding cues such as the baby moving their head from side to side with an open mouth, the baby opening and closing their mouth, sucking on their hands or lip smacking is crucial to avoid waiting for the late sign of hunger – crying. Feeding your baby on demand (whenever the baby wants) and regularly will also increase your milk supply.

Enjoy and make the most of your time with your baby at each stage of their growth and development, including breastfeeding, if this is the choice that you’ve made for the two of you. It may seem hard at the beginning and there might be more than one occasion when you feel like giving up but remember that it can only get better. As the saying goes “practice makes perfect”.

At the end of the day the final decision on whether or not to breastfeed is yours. Remember that each person’s experience is different so avoid comparing yourself to someone else. By choosing to breastfeed your baby, you’re giving them a winning start in life and optimising their health outcomes.

Thank you for joining us this week on our Eat for Our Health page. Look us up on social media - Eat for Our Health Seychelles on Facebook.

Please get in touch by emailing and let us know how you’re doing with these ideas, or better still, let us know how we can help you.


Yours in health

The E4OH t

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