Categories: Gynaecology

Breastfeeding – Myths vs Facts

Breastfeeding is very important for the survival and good health of a newborn. The importance and the protective and the beneficial role of breastfeeding should be stressed earlier on itself, it provides complete and balanced nutrition during the early transitional phase.

Generally, there are a lot of doubts after the discharge of the mother and baby home, regarding the adequacy of the feeding, here we will deal with the common myths and the facts regarding the adequacy of the breastfeeding

The Myths:

  • My breasts are small and don’t look full so I do not have enough milk:

The size of the breast does not determine the production of the milk, women with small breasts also secrete an adequate amount of breast milk.

  • My Baby has been delivered and I am still not secreting enough milk, I try to express and only a few drops of thick yellow sticky fluid come is it ok?

After the birth of the baby, the body takes time to secrete adequate breast milk, it may take up to 10 days to produce adequate quantities of breast milk.

The sticky fluid secreted during the initial few days is called the colostrum and is generally sufficient for the newborn baby. Milk expression is not always an adequate indicator of the production of milk. Sometimes the breasts may be engorged and it may be difficult to express the milk. Also, during stress and severe pain, the let down that is the secretion of milk from the breast may not happen despite the milk being adequate.

  • Will my diet or the food I eat affects my feeding?

It is very essential that the mother eats a well-balanced diet of approximate calories during the lactation period and has a good fluid intake. The diet neither influences the milk production and the quality of milk nor does it create any health issues for the baby except under certain circumstances

  • How do I know if my baby is feeding well at the breast?

By the behaviour of the baby at the breast, it is easy to know the same. In the initial phase of feeding the baby may fuss a bit, latch and relatch, then once the milk starts flowing the baby will start with regular sucks, they usually suck a few times followed by a brief pause for breathing. It is important to look at the lower jaw movement during feeding, the sound of swallowing may be heard. Sometimes babies may comfort feed and in such cases, the jaw movement may not be seen. Initially, a newborn feeds for 15 to 20 minutes and once they grow older may require lesser time to complete the feeds.

  • How many times in a day should I feed my baby, Should I follow any schedule?

A normal baby feeds on an average of 8 to 12 times a day and generally on demand. Sometimes it may be necessary to set up a quasi-schedule to make sure that the baby is receiving adequate milk and there is good weight gain, in certain babies who are preterm and low birth weight and in the first few weeks of birth and then they can also be fed on demand.

  • In case I do not secrete enough milk, what should I do?

It is very important to maintain frequent feedings, as this will help in the removal and hence the production of more milk, a lactation nurse or a specialist can be contacted for further assistance in feeding. Apart from a well-balanced diet and adequate fluid intake and correction of maternal nutritional deficiencies, medications may be required under certain circumstances under guidance from a medical professional.

  • Should I stop breastfeeding when I am sick or if I am taking any medications?

Unless the mother is incapacitated it is safe to continue breastfeeding, even in the current COVID pandemic mothers can safely breastfeed while taking adequate precautions like wearing a mask and using a sanitizer even if they are corona positive. Most of the medications including certain psychiatric medications are safe during breastfeeding the relevant medical specialists need to be consulted for the same.

Breast milk is the best first nutrition for a newborn, the benefits of which extend well into adulthood. In this newborn week, it is very important for all of us to help a new mother in this endeavour.

Dr. Harini Sreedharan | Consultant – Neonatology, Paediatrics | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra – Bangalore

Narayana Health

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