Breastfeeding Myths And Facts

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Exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life decreases the chances of infection of newborns. Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. The benefits of breastfeeding depend upon the initiation of breastfeeding, its duration, and the age at which the child is weaned. However, various socio-cultural factors influence breastfeeding practices. Myths and fallacies have existed ever since societies began and they have influenced breastfeeding practice as well. In this photo story, we have made an attempt to present the myths and the facts of breastfeeding. Myths are represented by cartoons.

Myth: Colostrum, the thick yellow milk produced right after delivery, is bad for the baby and should be thrown out.

Fact: Colostrum, the ‘first golden milk’, is good for the baby. It gives newborns an immunity boost while their immune systems are developing to support good lifelong health.

Myth: Honey or herbal preparation should be given to baby before the first breastfeed.

Fact: Giving such complex food to babies can actually put the baby at risk of infection and indigestion. Mothers’ milk is the simplest food with a high nutritious value that baby can easily digest.

Myth: Not all mothers have enough milk to breastfeed.

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Fact: Almost all mothers produce the right amount of milk for their babies. Frequent breastfeeding induces and increases milk production. Breastfeeding is a skill that requires practice, support and guidance from family and health professionals.

Myth: Infants also need water apart from breast milk.

Fact: Breast milk contains everything the baby needs for the first six months of life, in all the right proportions. Its composition even changes according to the baby’s changing needs, especially during the first month of life.

Myth: Whether to breastfeed a child or not is solely a woman’s choice. She should be the only one responsible for her baby’s health.

Fact: Various factors are responsible for shaping the decisions to breastfeed or opt for infant formula. Family, community and workplace have to be breastfeeding friendly and appropriate policies and arrangements are necessary.  

Myth: Exclusive breastfeeding for girls should be stopped at 5 months of age and boys at 6 months.

Fact: There is no difference between boys and girls when it comes to breastfeeding. Both should be breastfed exclusively (fed only breast milk) for 6 months. After 6 months of age, when babies begin to eat other foods and liquids, breastfeeding should still continue in parallel for up to two years.

Myth: To get the baby to stop breastfeeding, one should put something spicy, sour or bitter on her breast so that baby rejects it.

Fact: Weaning is a long-term process in which the mother gradually introduces complementary foods to replace breastfeeding. There is no need for any measures to abruptly stop the newborn from breastfeeding. 

Myth: Milk production is hereditary. If a mother could not breastfeed, her daughter will not be able to breastfeed as well.

Fact: Almost every mother can breastfeed successfully. The more you breastfeed, the more milk you will produce.

Myth: Breastfeeding changes the shape and size of breast and whole body.

Fact: The oxytocin released during breastfeeding helps the uterus to return to its previous size helping women to return to pre-pregnancy state faster. After three months of breastfeeding, the extra fat of mother is burn easily compared to those who do artificial feeding. It also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.

Myth: Nipples should be washed each time before feeding the baby.

Fact:  Washing the nipple frequently can remove the natural oils produced by the Montgomery glands located on the dark area surrounding  the nipples. These oils help to keep the nipples and areola clean and moisturized. Instead, mother should frequently wash her hands before feeding a baby. Nipple should be cleaned with plain water once a day and should be moisturized with own breast milk immediately after the feed and should let it dry.

As numerous myths about breastfeeding exist, the government, policymakers, and related national and international organizations should collaborate and act to ensure that every mother has access to skilled breastfeeding counseling and empower her to make the right decision to give her baby the best possible start in life.

Mero Tribune will cover breastfeeding related articles and cartoon stories this week. They are created by Ichchhya Rupakheti, Sabina KC, and Anjila Chhetri, who are studying Masters in Public Health in Chitwan Medical College.

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