10 breastfeeding truths

Many new mums will hear lots of breastfeeding horror stories, see formula advertisements or even receive ‘just in case’ formula samples in the mail. These stories and advertisements often plant a seed of low confidence and cause you to question your ability to perform the first task as a mother - to feed your infant.

Below is a compilation of some of the most common difficulties along with breastfeeding truths and helpful information to hopefully make new mums feel more confident and prepared.


Every mum wants the best for her baby 

Expectations put upon mums today are very intense and our societal support structure hasn't quite caught up with the science of why breastfeeding is important. There are many efforts to help mums get breastfeeding support after delivery, avoid embarrassing discrimination while breastfeeding in public, and support mums going back to work.


Despite these efforts, many mums still face challenges and do not reach their breastfeeding goals. Regardless of how you define breastfeeding success, you are a good mum and no one can care for your baby better than you. Have confidence that you are doing what is best for your baby and your family.


Your body is designed to make milk 

They don't teach this in health class, but the reason that women have breasts is not for men's pleasure or for selling products.


We are mammals. From puberty, a woman's breasts are getting ready for their task. It is very rare that a mum will not be able to make enough breastmilk for her baby. For the most part, breastmilk supply is established day 3-5 after delivery based on stimulation and milk drainage. If a baby is getting supplements and the breasts are not being drained, your body thinks that you do not need to make that milk and milk supply will decrease.


If your baby is not latching well, losing too much weight, or not having enough wet and dirty nappies, seek help early to identify the problem. If you investigate early and protect your milk supply, you will be well on your way to making enough breastmilk for your baby because that is what your body is designed to do.


You have the right to breastfeed anywhere 

Many mums are concerned about breastfeeding in public. Some mums might even pump and put milk in a bottle so that they can avoid embarrassment. Have confidence! You are doing more than just feeding your child; you are setting them up for optimal growth and development.


Take comfort in the fact that you also have support. Your right to feed your baby anywhere that you have the right to be is protected by law.


Your milk is specially designed for your baby and impossible to replicate in a lab

The optimal food and nutrition for a human child is human milk. Breastmilk substitutes will contribute to infant growth, but breastmilk is much more than just a food. Your breastmilk has living immunities that change every day depending on the bacteria and viruses in your baby's environment. Once exposed to an illness, within 24 hours your breastmilk contains the antibodies that your baby needs to fight off that infection. Your breastmilk has stem cells that could potentially act as an internal repair system. Your milk is species-specific and will never be replicated by using another animal's milk.


Any amount of breastmilk is beneficial for your baby

The optimal breastfeeding duration is 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding with the addition of solid foods for at least 1 year until both mum and baby are ready to wean. The weaning process could last for several years.

If you are not able to reach these goals due to societal pressure, difficulty with breastfeeding, or simply because these goals are not your own, you are a good mum and any amount of your milk that your baby receives is beneficial for their growth and development. Refer back to Truth 1 and Truth 4. Every millilitre of breastmilk is beneficial for your baby.


You do not have to have a perfect diet to provide optimal nutrition for your baby

Your body will provide for your baby first and for you second. Even mums who are truly malnourished will still be providing their child with all of the antibodies and immunological protection that their child needs to fight off infection. She will still have all of the proteins, carbs, and fat that her baby needs as well. While there will be some degree of variation, vitamin content is the main ingredient that is directly correlated with maternal diet. If mum is deficient in vitamin content, it will also be deficient in her milk.


It is recommended that you take a postnatal multivitamin during breastfeeding to replenish vitamin stores to ensure that both you and your baby are getting all that you need. Throw all the other myths that you can't eat beans or spicy food aside. Eat a good variety of foods and take vitamin supplements and you and your baby will be happy and healthy.


Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding 

Basically, all medications and supplements state on the label "do not take while pregnant or breastfeeding". However, there are only a small number of medications that are contraindicated while breastfeeding. Pseudoephedrine poses the biggest risk in over the counter medications as it can decrease milk supply.


It is important to speak with your doctor before taking any medications because medical history may play a role, but you would be surprised at the medications that are safe to use while breastfeeding.


Your partner will still bond with your baby without giving bottles 

Dads can sometimes soothe baby better than anyone else. A baby lying skin to skin with dad or even just lying on your chest while listening to your voice will quickly soothe the savage beast. Baby recognises your voice from in-utero. Just remember repetition to soothe - patting on the back, rocking, bouncing. Anything repetitious will be soothing. This cuddling and relaxation is a special bond that all dads will enjoy and mums will appreciate.


Breastfeeding mums get more sleep at night than their bottle-feeding counterparts

On average breastfeeding mums get 40 minutes more sleep at night and triple the amount of good quality sleep. This occurs because your sleep cycle synchronizes with that of your baby. As your baby is waking, so are you. You are also given a boost of relaxing hormones while you are breastfeeding to help you fall right back to sleep once your baby is finished breastfeeding. The good-intentioned suggestion to give a bottle instead of breastfeeding will in most cases not improve sleep as mum is waking with baby anyway and skipping a feeding will decrease milk supply.


If you are trying to get more rest at night, keep baby close to you so that you can easily breastfeed without really getting up and ask dad or your support partner to take care of nappies and soothing when baby has been well fed but is still fussy.


If you have concerns, help is at your fingertips

 Look for a local IBCLC.


Contribution by: Janet Jones IBCLC, RLC