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Myths on breastfeeding

UNICEF taps lactation expert Dr. Michele Griswald to debunk myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding. 

Myth: I can be separated from my newborn baby after birth so I have time to rest. 

The skin-to-skin practice between mother and baby immediately after birth, also called “kangaroo care,” is encouraged and widely practiced by doctors, nurses and midwives. “Keeping the baby against the mother’s skin will calm the baby enough to find the mother’s breast on their own within 30 minutes to an hour after birth,” explains Dr. Griswald. 

Myth: I should be worried because my nipples are sore from breastfeeding. 

Many mothers experience discomfort in the first few days after birth when they are learning to breastfeed. With the right support with positioning the baby for breastfeeding and making sure the baby is correctly attached to the breast, sore nipples can be avoided. 

Myth: I should only eat plain food while breastfeeding.

Generally, there is no need to change food habits. Mothers who breastfeed still need to eat a balanced diet like everyone else. While in the womb, the baby was already exposed to their mother’s food preferences. Once born, the infant will taste whatever the mother eats through their milk, which will prime them for table foods when they’re about six months old. “If your baby reacts to a specific food that you eat, consult a specialist.”

Myth: Exercise affects the taste of my breast milk.

There is no evidence that exercise affects the taste of breast milk. Exercise is healthy even for breastfeeding mothers

Myth: I should not breastfeed while I’m sick. 

Depending on the kind of illness, mothers can usually continue breastfeeding when they’re sick. In many cases, the antibodies a nursing mother’s body makes to treat their disease will pass on to their baby, building their own defenses. 

Myth: I cannot take medication while I’m breastfeeding. 

Dr. Griswald advises mothers to inform their doctor that they are breastfeeding and read the instructions with any medications they buy over the counter. It might be necessary to take medications at a specific time or in a specific dosage, or to take an alternative formulation. 

Myth: My baby shouldn’t eat so much as a newborn.

A baby should show signs of hunger about eight to 12 times in 24 hours. Newborn babies need to eat a lot because they’re growing rapidly. They double their birth weight in the first six months of life, or before. 

Myth: I should wean my baby right away. 

Babies will naturally wean starting around one year of age or so because developmentally, they’re changing so much. They’re becoming less focused on their mother, and more focused on learning about the world around them.

Myth: I will have to wean my baby when I go back to work.

Lactating mothers need time and support to continue to breastfeed, so it is important to get support from family, workplace, employers, and the entire community. 

Myth: There are no family-friendly policies that support lactating mothers like me. 

The Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act 2009 or Republic Act 10028 mandates employers to provide safe and hygienic lactation rooms in places of work. Lactation periods should be no less than 40 minutes within an eight-hour work period, in addition to meal breaks. Additionally, the Expanded Maternity Leave Act or Republic Act 11210 states that all working mothers in the government and private sector are guaranteed with 105 days of paid maternity leave credits, with seven days transferable to fathers. An additional 15 days of paid leave will be granted to single mothers.

Topics: Michele Griswald , UNICEF , Breastfeeding , Myth , Mothers

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