When you’re a parent who’s set on providing only the “best” for your child, you usually do what you can to do so — and this includes arming yourself with knowledge about everything that will seem useful for your parenting journey.
If giving the “best” includes breastfeeding your child, you’ll probably find yourself bombarded with advice and opinions left and right — some “good,” some “bad,” and some probably considered utter nonsense.
So how do you tell breastfeeding fact from fiction? We asked Joyce Martinez, the registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) behind Center for Lactation Care, to help us out by debunking these breastfeeding myths, some of which are especially common among Filipinos:
1. “Huwag padedehin ang baby pag galing ka sa labas o galing sa biyahe. Masisipsip ni baby ang pagod mo.” (Do not feed baby when you're exhausted, as you will pass on the stress to him/her.) Fact: “Stress is not passed on to the baby [through breastfeeding],” Martinez says. “Breastfeeding ensures that your baby will have a healthy, nutritious ‘meal.’”
2. “Moms should time their breastfeeding sessions.” Fact: Martinez disagrees completely with this. “Each baby is different, and there are babies who may nurse longer than others,” she explains. “There are days babies will have growth spurts and cluster nurse, too.”
Thus, Martinez advises moms to not watch the clock when breastfeeding, as “timing will make you doubt about your supply.”
3. “The amount of breastmilk you pump or hand express is equal to the amount your baby can get from nursing.” Fact: “Milk removal by pump is different from direct nursing,” Martinez explains. “Pumping works by suction, which is negative pressure; direct feeding is a mix of negative pressure as baby suckles, and positive pressure as baby's jaw and tongue move to draw out milk.
“Therefore, direct feeding is incomparable with pumping, although the expression of milk by hand or pump is a useful way to store milk for later use when Mommy is not around — for example: when attending to errands or working outside the home.”
4. “Bawal uminom ng malamig na tubig.” (A breastfeeding mom should avoid cold drinks.) Fact: While Martinez acknowledges and respects the fact that there are some cultures that believe that the human body is in the “yin” or cold state after birth, and thus must “balance things out” by restricting cold drinks or not bathing for a certain period of time postpartum, etc., she clarifies that if a breastfeeding mom wants to drink cold water to quench her thirst, “physiologically speaking, it won’t affect her milk supply.”
5. The ability (or inability) to breastfeed is hereditary. Fact: Martinez emphasizes the fact that a woman’s milk supply depends on physiological factors. “Pregnancy allows a mother’s breasts to develop in such a way that will allow her to produce milk,” she explains. “So, one’s breastfeeding ability is not hereditary.”
6. “Kapag may sakit si Mommy, tulad ng sipon or ubo, bawal magpadede — baka mahawa si Baby!” (You should not breastfeed when you are sick.) Fact: Martinez stresses the fact that breastmilk has “anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic components that will help protect baby,” so breastfeeding while you are sick poses no problem.
However, you still need to take measures against infection: “Wear a mask and wash your hands religiously to help prevent spread of disease,” she advises. This applies whether or not you are breastfeeding.
7. “If you want to have a good supply of breastmilk, you should drink plenty of milk.” Fact: This is not true. “While milk is a source of calcium, it is also an allergen,” Martinez explains. “Thus, I recommend non-dairy sources of calcium such as plant-based milk like freshly prepared almond milk, green leafy veggies, etc.”
8. “My baby still cries even after I breastfeed him. That means the milk he gets from is not sufficient.” Fact: Martinez assures nursing moms that a crying baby does not necessarily equate to insufficient milk production or a low milk supply. “Crying signifies several cues: hunger, discomfort, pain, sleepiness, etc.,” she expounds. “Try your best to decode your baby's cues, and don’t give in to supplemental feeding if it’s not medically necessary.”
9. “My baby is nursing all the time — it means he/she isn't getting enough milk!” Fact: Martinez wants all moms to remember that breastfeeding isn’t just about “feeding” your baby. “Remember, your baby gets comfort from nursing too!” she emphasizes. “Because of the closeness and skin-to-skin contact that is associated with breastfeeding, your breasts provide not just nutrition but comfort, warmth, and a sense of security to your child.”
10. “You need to clean or wash your nipples before breastfeeding your child.” Fact: Sadly, this myth is something that is often espoused by many nurses and other health professionals in numerous hospitals around the country. It is totally baseless though.
“Your breasts’ areolar glands secrete a fluid that helps protect your nipples and areolas, so there is no need to clean your nipples,” Martinez stresses. “In fact, cleaning them will make them dry, thus posing the risk of having cracked nipples. Also, washing them often will remove the natural scent that helps your baby in ‘rooting’ and finding your breast.”
Needless to say, the abovementioned breastfeeding myths are definitely not the only ones that are well-known among nursing and non-nursing moms alike. It is hoped, though, that by expanding people’s knowledge on breastfeeding and providing expert-backed, research-based facts such as those provided by Nurse Martinez, we can help more mothers and babies be more successful in their breastfeeding journey.
Do you have other breastfeeding myths to add to our list? Let us know by leaving a comment below!