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Chinny Obinwanne: True or False? Let’s Discuss These Breastfeeding Myths

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New mums are provided with so much information on breastfeeding that it can sometimes get confusing. Being in this field of work, I’ve heard way too many from mothers, and I’ve had my own fair share as well.

During my last trip to Nigeria, I visited the village with my daughter. On this specific day, I was sitting out, enjoying the cool breeze, while nursing my then 15-month-old baby. Some of my relatives came by and found me breastfeeding, and before I knew what was happening one aunty started hitting my baby. The girl was startled and cried. Ha! It wasn’t funny. I was pained and shook at the same time, but, surrounded by several aunties, I had no idea what to do. I just said, “It’s my choice and she is still getting a lot of nutrition from my milk,” and I moved away from them.

The thing is that this my aunt strongly believed that there is no gain to breastfeeding a baby past a year. Unfortunately, this is the same thing I get from mothers; there will always be that opinionated family member or friend who is an advice mill. But they don’t know any better.

Here are some of the myths I’ve come across in my experience.

Myth #1
When a baby is breastfeeding after 1 year, they say the baby is just sucking blood. The milk is all gone.

First of all, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended that babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months, followed by an addition of complimentary meals with continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years, or as desired by both mother and baby.

Breastmilk is the gold standard for infant nutrition. As a baby grows, he will need other sources of nutrition, thus the introduction of solids. But the mother’s milk plays a valuable role to the diet. The composition of breast milk changes as the baby gets older to meet up with the child’s changing needs. Breastfeeding has just as many benefits for a toddler as it does for a newborn. This includes important nutrients designed specifically for the brain, antibodies that bolster the child’s health. The longer a child is breastfed, the better their immune system gets.

Myth #2
If you don’t breastfeed for a whole day your milk will become sour and that will be the end of breastfeeding.

Choi Choi Choi how can body fluid that keeps flowing in and out get sour inside the body? This one is false. As long as it is breastmilk, it is good. It cannot be SOUR. It can change in composition and taste but it is not sour.

Another one I heard that sounds similar to this is that after a long day outside in the sun, a breastfeeding mother needs to have a shower. Why? Because the harsh sun from the day has made her milk sour and taking a shower will reverse the sour taste, make it into normal milk. Please help me understand this one. I was weak the day my own mother told me this.

Myth #3
As a breastfeeding mother, you must eat in excess to make enough milk. Omugwo should be called on a fattening mission.

My mum had this mission written all over her when she came for omugwo. You must eat this, eat that, eat again. The amount of food she gave me was literally enough to satisfy 3 people my size. I could not keep up. It’s common to notice an increase in appetite while breastfeeding, but that doesn’t equate to eating in excess for milk. Some women do eat more when they breastfeed, but others do not, and some even eat less, without any harm to the mother or baby or the milk production. Mothers should eat a balanced diet dictated by their appetite. Eat right. Frequent healthy meals in small portions and use lactation products instead of eating for 3.

Remember, stay hydrated

Myth #4
Breastfeeding is a guaranteed or reliable birth control.

When some criteria is met, Breastfeeding can make for effective birth control method, but this is not guaranteed. If a woman is exclusively breastfeeding (the baby is getting only breastmilk, no water or formula, and her period is not back, then she can use breastfeeding as a birth control.) But this is not guaranteed. A good amount of mothers have gotten pregnant during exclusive breastfeeding and with no period. If you are not ready to be pregnant, use other birth control methods.

Myth #5
A breastfed baby needs water in hot weather.

After I had my baby, my mother-in-law advised me to give her water. She would insist that her granddaughter was thirsty, the weather was hot, etc. She felt all babies need water.

It is false. Breastmilk has all the water your baby needs. In fact, 87.5% of breastmilk is water, especially the milk at the beginning of a feed. There is no need for extra water. Giving water to young babies puts them at the risk of infection, diarrhoea and malnutrition. It may also cause the baby to nurse less frequently as their small tummy is filled with water, which in turn affects milk supply. Therefore, whenever the mother feels her baby is thirsty, she can breastfeed him or her. Exclusive breastfeeding is when a baby receives only breast milk, without any additional food or liquid, not even water, except for oral rehydration solution, drops and syrups (vitamins, minerals or medicines).

Myth #6
Your milk will dry up when you stay in the sun, stand over a hot stove or even iron clothes.

This is false. I don’t even know who came up with this. None of these normal activities dries up breastmilk. Heat doesn’t dry up breastmilk in a mother’s breast.

Myth #7
The breast will stop making milk if your baby belches/burps while breastfeeding.

I was weak when I heard this. This does not make any sense, and I can’t seem to make up any story to explain how this came about. Just know that it is completely false.

I will not be able to finish all the myths in this one post. Please share myths you’ve heard or things you were told that didn’t sound correct.

Photo Credit: © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

Chinny Obinwanne is a Medical Doctor, trained Lactation Consultant and a member of Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. With many years of dedicated training and experience in maternal and child health. She has been able to help thousands of mothers across the globe to achieve their breastfeeding goal. She can be found on www.themilkbooster.com

5 Comments

  1. Radiant

    June 26, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Thank you for writing this. And thank you for being a lactation consultant. I really needed one after I had my daughter (first and only for now). I realised that the hospital where I gave birth did not have and I have also checked out other hospitals here in my city and I am yet to meet one. The nurses seem to just wing it (in terms of educating mothers). Babycentre app however came to my aid.

  2. ENIOLA

    June 26, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    If baby burps while feeding, your boobs will hurt. Something that neither of us can control o.
    If breast milk spills on baby’s skin, baby will have a rash. I’ve not seen that one happen, maybe when I have my third sha.

  3. Disguised

    June 26, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    The pain you go through when you start breastfeeding, during (sometimes) and when you decide to stop. Ahhhhh women are strong sha. God Bless x

  4. Ere

    June 26, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you very much for this write up. It’s very informative. I made a lot of mistakes when breastfeeding my 1st baby. By God’s grace I hope to correct them for my next

  5. mavo

    June 26, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you for posting this! I cannot believe people believe these things (and many more myths associated with nursing). My eyes glossed over.

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