World Breastfeeding Week: Nine myths about breastfeeding

A woman breastfeeding her child. [PHOTO CREDIT: Mama Glow]
A woman breastfeeding her child. [PHOTO CREDIT: Mama Glow]

Becoming a parent is a thing of joy, especially in Africa. Motherhood irrespective of the number of times a woman has put to bed is a life-altering gift and an immense responsibility.

This is because each delivery comes with its peculiar experience.

This week, as countries around the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF and WHO have called on governments and employers to adopt family-friendly policies that support breastfeeding.

The UN agencies said family-friendly policies- such as paid parental leave – enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life when it matters most.

“The evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime.”

Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age two or longer can boost children’s immune system, shield them from disease, and provide protection from noncommunicable diseases later in life.

Breastfeeding also protects maternal health — women who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Here are some myths about breastfeeding:

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1 Breastfeeding is easy: Breastfeeding is not an easy feat. Breastfeeding takes time and practice for both mothers and babies. Breastfeeding is also time-intensive, so mothers need space, support and rest at home and work.

Although babies will naturally look for their mother’s breasts, many mothers need practical support with positioning the babies for breastfeeding. This is to make sure that the babies are correctly attached to the breast.

2. Mothers need to wash their nipples before breastfeeding: There is no need for mothers to wash their nipples before breastfeeding. The nipples produce a substance that the babies smell and have good bacteria that can help build the baby’s immune system.

3. Babies should be separated from mothers at birth: This is wrong. Doctors, nurses or midwives should always encourage the practice of skin to skin for mothers and babies immediately after birth. The mother should also as soon as possible with an hour of birth breastfeed the baby.

The first milk produced by the mother is very important and must not be pressed away. The first milk or colostrum is rich in antibodies and gives new-born immunity boost while their immune system is still developing.

4. Breastfeeding mothers cannot eat some food: Like everybody, a breastfeeding mother should always eat a balanced diet. There is no major reason for mothers to abstain from some food unless it is suspected that the baby reacts to a particular food she eats. For such a decision to be taken, the mother can consult a doctor.

5. Exercises affect the taste of breast milk: This is very untrue. Exercise is healthy for breastfeeding mothers. According to UNICEF, there is no evidence that exercise affects the taste of breast milk.

6. Mothers cannot produce enough milk: Almost all mothers produce the right quantity of milk required to feed their babies. The milk production is determined by how well the baby is latched on to the breast and the frequency of breastfeeding. It is also determined by how well the baby is removing the milk from the breast.

Eating well, rest and drink enough liquid also helps with the production of breast milk.

7. You cannot take medication while breastfeeding: This is not necessarily true. Some medications are needed to be taken at some specific point in time. In such a situation, the mother should consult her doctor before doing so. The mother should also inform the baby’s doctor about the medication she is taking.

8. Babies who are breastfed are clingy: Some babies are clingy while some are not. All babies are different. No matter if they are breastfed or not.

Breastfeeding does not determine if they will be clingy. Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies and it is very important for the development of their brains. Breastfeeding also enhances the bonding between mother and child because they are often held while breastfeeding.

9. It is hard to wean a child if you breastfeed for more than a year: There is no evidence that it is more difficult to stop breastfeeding after one year. The mother can start introducing staple food to the baby some weeks to weaning the child. This will make the baby familiar with the food and will prevent sudden weaning.

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