(Please click here for the breastfeeding advice on COVID-19)
Many fears and anxieties impair or derail a woman's breastfeeding relationship with her baby, or discourage her from breastfeeding in the first place. Some of these anxieties have no scientific basis. Of the many things you hear, what is the truth?
1. Many women do not produce enough milk.
Not true! The vast majority of women could produce more than enough milk. Production of breastmilk is induced by the stimulation a newborn baby creates when he* attaches well on to his mother’s breast. The more the baby suckles, the more milk will be produced. Thus, a simple solution to inadequate milk supply is to nurse more frequently at the same time ensuring there is actual milk transfer from the mother to the baby. The stimulation will naturally increase the production of milk.
2. It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt.
Not true! Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. Although mild discomfort at the beginning is common, this should only last for a few days. Persistent and hard pain is not normal. It may be due to the baby not attaching on properly. Adjusting to a better breastfeeding position would often reduce pain. If the situation persists, you should consult a health professional.
3. A baby should be on the breast 20 minutes on EACH side.
Not true! Each and every baby has his own particular pace of feeding. Duration of feeding varies from baby to baby and between different feeds of the same baby. As long as the baby is correctly attached, actively transferring milk and has not fallen asleep at your breast, the baby will come off the breast when he had enough. You can offer the other breast to see if he still wants to feed.
It is most important to check if the baby is actually drinking from your breast. You can observe the swallowing action – long, slow, rhythmic suckling and swallowing with pauses and the sound of swallowing milk (after the first days when milk comes in).
4. Pumping is a good way of knowing how much milk the mother has.
Not true! How much milk can be pumped depends on many factors, including the mother's stress level. The baby who nurses well can get much more milk than what his mother can pump. Pumping only tells you how much you can pump.
5. Modern formulae are almost the same as breastmilk.
Not true! Modern formulae try to imitate breastmilk, but they are not the same. Infant formula provides the basic nutrition. Breastmilk, other than providing nutrition, is a living substance that contains antibodies, living cells, enzymes, and hormones that play a crucial role in promoting health and development of the baby. All these substances do NOT exist in formulae. Composition of formulae does not vary from the beginning of the feed to the end of the feed, or from woman to woman, or from baby to baby. Your breastmilk is made to suit uniquely your baby.
6. If the mother has an infection she should stop breastfeeding.
Not true! Unless the mother is very ill, most of the time, the baby can continue to breastfeed. The baby may be protected from the infection through breastfeeding. If the baby does get sick, he may be less sick if the mother continues breastfeeding. Medications used for common illnesses are usually compatible with breastfeeding. Consult your doctor before taking non-prescription drugs or herbs.
7. If the baby has diarrhoea or is vomiting, the mother should stop breastfeeding.
Not true! The best medicine for a baby's gut infection is breastfeeding. Stop other foods for a short time, but continue breastfeeding. Breastmilk provides the fluid your baby requires when he has diarrhoea and/or vomiting except under exceptional circumstances. Contact your doctor if you have any concern.
8. If the mother is taking medicine she should not breastfeed.
Not true! Many medicines are compatible with breastfeeding. If a medicine is of concern there are usually equally effective alternative medicines available that are safe. Please consult your doctor or make a counter-check by calling the Family Health Service Breastfeeding Hotline (Tel: 3618 7450) if you are not sure.
9. Women with flat or inverted nipples cannot breastfeed.
Not true! Babies do not breastfeed on nipples; they breastfeed on the breast. A proper start will usually prevent problems and mothers with any shaped nipples can breastfeed perfectly adequately. If you are looking for help with breastfeeding contact us at our hotline, attend a MCHC or find more information in our resource section.
10. Babies will stay on the breast for hours because they like to suckle.
Not true! Being at the breast is not the same as drinking at the breast. Attaching the baby better onto the breast allows the baby to nurse more effectively, and thus spend more time actually drinking. You can also help the baby to drink more by expressing milk into his mouth when he is no longer suckling on his own. Click here for more information.
11. If a mother has surgery, she has to wait a day before restarting nursing.
Not true! Mother can breastfeed immediately after surgery, as soon as she is up to it. Neither the medications used during anaesthesia, nor pain medications nor antibiotics used after surgery requires the mother to avoid breastfeeding, except under exceptional circumstances. Ask your doctor!
12. A mother whose breasts do not seem full has little milk in the breast.
Not true! Breasts do not have to feel or look full to produce plenty of milk. A lactating mother's body is always producing milk. The emptier the breast, the faster the body makes milk to replace it; the fuller the breast, the more the production of milk slows down.
13. If the baby is off the breast for a few days (weeks), the mother should not restart breastfeeding because the milk sours.
Not true! The milk is as good as always. Breastmilk in the breast is not milk or formula in a bottle. It will not turn bad. We encourage all mothers to exclusively breastfeed until the baby is 6 months old and continue breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods (UNICEF/WHO recommendation).
14. Nursing a baby after 12 months is of little value because the quality of breastmilk begins to decline after six months.
Not true! The composition of human milk changes to meet the changing needs of babies as they mature. Even when babies are able to take solids, human milk is the primary source of nutrition during the first year. It becomes a supplement to solids during the second year. In addition, it takes between two and six years for a child's immune system to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered. In some tribes children get nursed up to the age of 7. Research also finds that the longer the mother breastfeeds, the more is the reduction of the risk of maternal breast cancer.
15. Women with small breasts can't produce enough milk.
Not true! Whether a woman is thin, big, tall, or short, the basic anatomical structure of the breast is the same for all women, and the glandular structure is unaffected by the amount of fatty tissue in the breast. Lactation variation among women is a result of hormonal differences, not breast size although women with smaller breasts may have less storage capacity and may need to breastfeed more frequently.
16. A breastfeeding mother has to eat more in order to make enough milk.
Not true! Women on even very low calorie diets usually make enough milk. Some women do eat more when they breastfeed, but others do not, and some even eat less, without any harm done to the mother or baby or the milk supply. The mother should eat a balanced diet dictated by her appetite.
17. A mother who smokes is better not to breastfeed.
Not true! Breastfeeding confers great health benefits on both mother and baby. It would be better if the mother would not smoke, but if she cannot stop or cut down, then it is better she smokes and breastfeeds than smokes and feeds formula.
Here are some tips for smoking mothers:
- Smoke after you breastfeed, not before
- Cut back the number of cigarettes you smoke each day
- Never smoke in the same room where your baby is
18. Breastfeeding babies need other types of milk after 6 months.
Not true! Breastmilk is the only milk a baby needs. It provides not only nutrition but continues to provide immunological and other benefits even if the baby is over 6 months. Babies older than 6 months should, however start with solids mainly so that they learn how to eat and so that they begin to get another source of iron, which by 7-9 months, is not supplied in sufficient quantities from breastmilk alone. No other type of milk is needed after the age of 6 month. (For babies who are not breastfed, they can drink infant formula during the first 6 months, start complementary foods around 6 months and continue on infant formula. After 12 months, they can drink full fat milk. WHO states that follow-up formula milk is not necessary and unsuitable as a breastmilk replacement from six months onwards.)
19. Breastfeeding affects the shape of a woman’s breasts.
Not true! The shape of the breast is influenced by heredity, body fat and pregnancy, not by breastfeeding. A woman who breastfeeds loses the amount of weight she gained during pregnancy more quickly than a woman who bottle feeds. She also reduces her risk of breast cancer.
20. It is easier to bottle feed than to breastfeed.
Not true! Breastfeeding is made difficult because women often do not receive the help they should to get started properly. A poor start can indeed make breastfeeding difficult. But a poor start can also be overcome. The loss of benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby must be taken into account when weighing if breastfeeding should be continued.
*”he” is used to cover both baby boys and girls for simplicity’s sake
f you have any worries or problems when you try to breastfeed, you may call our hotline:
Baby Friendly Hotline
Daily from 9am to 9pm.