World Breastfeeding Week 2020: Five common myths about this natural and healthy practice
To promote breastfeeding and its many benefits for the mother and child, the WHO celebrates the week between 1 and 7 August every year as the World Breastfeeding Week.
Breastfeeding is the natural method through which a mother feeds her milk to her baby, thereby providing nutrients, fluids and even antibodies against diseases. It is, therefore, an extremely healthy practice that provides a baby with the best start in life possible. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and experts around the world recommend that all mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months of their lives.
To promote breastfeeding and its many benefits for the mother and child, the WHO celebrates the week between 1 and 7 August every year as the World Breastfeeding Week. The theme for 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. While breastfeeding is a healthy practice, many have immense misconceptions regarding it. This forms a major barrier to proper breastfeeding practices being implemented throughout the world. Proper maternal counselling and awareness programmes are needed to completely dispel these myths. The following are some of the most common ones:
Myth 1: It’s natural for your nipples to hurt when you breastfeed.
Fact: According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), it’s natural for new mothers to experience some discomfort during the first few days of breastfeeding. It’s also natural for nipples to feel sore and even bleed when your baby starts teething. But other than this, breastfeeding should not hurt. If it does, it means you’re likely to be positioning the baby wrong or not making sure that the baby is attaching to the nipples properly. Both these issues can be resolved if you ask a nurse, doctor or experienced mother to show you the right way.
Myth 2: Many mothers find it difficult to produce enough milk
Fact: As UNICEF points out, most mothers produce the right amount of milk for their babies. If you feel you’re not producing enough milk, it could be because of one of the following three reasons: the baby is not latched to the nipples properly, the baby is unable to remove sufficient milk with each feeding or the frequency of breastfeeding is not right. A doctor or healthcare professional will be able to guide you through all three of these to make sure you’re producing enough milk. This apart, proper support, diet, rest and exercise during the breastfeeding months is also important.
Myth 3: You can’t breastfeed if and when you’re sick.
Fact: Contrary to what you may believe, mothers can usually continue to breastfeed even if they’re sick, as long as they’ve consulted with a doctor and are taking the appropriate treatment for their ailment. This is the case with everything from mastitis to hepatitis because experts believe that the antibodies that a mother develops to fight the disease will also get passed on to the baby, which will improve the baby’s immunity towards the same disease. If the disease is too contagious then the use of a breast pump to express the milk and then feeding it to the baby is recommended, as in the case of COVID-19 infection.
Myth 4: You can’t get pregnant while you’re breastfeeding.
Fact: Breastfeeding does not function as a reliable method of birth control. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that breastfeeding does prevent ovulation in some women, but there’s no guarantee that you couldn’t get pregnant. Instead, you should discuss a better birth control method with your doctor, and avoid estrogen-containing birth control pills while you’re breastfeeding.
Myth 5: Breastfeeding will ruin the shape of your breasts.
Fact: The AAP says that age, weight gain and the effects of gravity are more likely to affect the shape of your breasts rather than breastfeeding. Breasts go back to pre-pregnancy shape and size for most women after they stop breastfeeding, though the consistency of the breasts is likely to change after pregnancy.
For more information, read our article on Benefits of breastfeeding.
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