Myth 1: I shouldn’t breastfeed if baby has jaundice
Truth: More than half newborns become jaundiced within the first week of life. This jaundice is called “physiologic”, meaning normal. Physiologic jaundice is caused by a rise in blood levels of bilirubin, a yellow pigment that is a product of the breakdown of hemoglobin from the extra red blood cells with which most babies are born. Jaundice results when excess bilirubin accumulates in the blood and is deposited in the skin, muscles, and mucous membranes of the body, causing the skin to take on a yellowish color.
Because bilirubin is initially fat-soluble, it cannot be dissolved in blood or urine. In order to be eliminated by the body, bilirubin must be converted into water-soluble form by the liver and excreted via the stool. The first milk, colostrum, is a natural laxative. Frequent breastfeeding stimulates bowel movements which help to ensure baby will have enough stools needed to rid the excess bilirubin from his body quickly.
If baby has difficulty latching on, you are strongly encouraged to begin expressing your milk immediately and the expressed milk can be used as a supplement until baby is more active at the breast. It also stimulates your milk supply so that your mature milk comes in sooner, providing baby with more fluids and calories. When supplements must be given for weeks or months, the nursing supplementer is an excellent alternative to bottles because it encourages proper sucking at the breast and stimulates milk production while avoiding the use of bottles.
Myth 2: Breastmilk is not as nutritious as formula, especially when baby’s more than 6 months old
Truth: It is easy to figure this out. If formula milk was indeed more nutritious than breastmilk, World Health Organization (WHO) and Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) would not recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for a minimum of 6 months, and thereafter for 2 years and beyond with complementary foods. Your milk continually changes to have the right composition for your baby, and exactly the right amounts of nutrients baby needs at any age. Formula does not.
Formula and breastmilk look very different; formula is creamier and looks richer than breastmilk. This may lead you and/or baby’s caregiver to believe that formula is more nutritious for your baby, but that’s not the case.
Breastmilk contains more than 100 ingredients that the formula industry simply can’t duplicate. For example, breastmilk is full of antibodies that protect babies from illness and help them develop their own immune systems. It continues to complement and boost the child’s immune system for as long as it is offered.
Some other key differences between the ingredients in breastmilk and formula include the following:
- Although formula has higher protein content than human milk, the protein in breastmilk is more easily and completely digested by babies.
- Breastmilk has higher carbohydrate content than formula and has large amounts of lactose, a sugar found in lower amounts in cow’s milk. Research shows that animals whose milk contains higher amounts of lactose experience larger brain development.
- Minerals such as iron are present in lower quantities in breastmilk than in formula. However, the minerals in breastmilk are more completely absorbed by the baby. In formula-fed babies, the unabsorbed portions of minerals can change the balance of bacteria in the gut, which gives harmful bacteria a chance to grow. This is one reason why formula-fed babies generally have harder and more odorous stools than breastfed babies.
Breastmilk is the gold standard that formula companies are trying to match but can never fully replicate!
Myth 3: It is not safe to breastfeed when I am sick
Truth: When you are down with common illness, such as a cold or the flu, your body produces specific antibodies that actually protect your breastfeeding baby. Most doctors are happy to prescribe breastfeeding-safe medication. Even if you have food poisoning or various diseases, usually breastfeeding can still continue. Do consult healthcare professionals who are pro-breastfeeding.
Myth 4: Breastfeeding requires strict control of my diet
Truth: Studies have shown that even malnourished women are able to produce milk of sufficient quality and quantity to support a growing infant. Even if you indulge in a less-than-perfect diet (including moderate intake of caffeine), it will not affect your milk supply, and your milk is still the best for your baby. Nevertheless, you are encouraged to eat well so that you will have more energy and be more resistant to illness.
Myth 5: Exercising will affect my milk production
Truth: Moderate exercise is beneficial for the breastfeeding mother. It is a great stress reliever, which in turn, can even help to boost your milk supply! However, if you are an exercise fanatic, do take care not to lose too much weight too soon (not more than 2kg a month)…try eating nutrient-dense snacks to keep your weight loss gradual and provide extra energy.
You can have fun exercising together with your baby! For example, piggybacking baby for a stroll in the park or window-shopping, or jogging with baby in special stroller designed for such activities. Do remember to wear a supportive bra to make exercising more comfortable.
Myth 6: If I am breastfeeding, it is not safe to indulge in personal grooming
Truth: There is no evidence that tanning beds, nipple piercing, or hair dyes and permanents used by the nursing mother have any effect on her breastfeeding baby. You can continue your regular routine of spa, facial, massage, hair treatments and more. Life is still a bed of roses!!
Myth 7: Breastfeeding affects my bone mineral density and increases risk of osteoporosis
Truth: Although studies indicate that some bone mineral density is lost while breastfeeding, it is recovered or even increased after weaning. The most significant risk factor in developing osteoporosis is not pregnancy or breastfeeding but low calcium intakes during childhood, the teen years, and early adulthood (Cross 1995).
Over a lifetime, breastfeeding may decrease the risk of hip fractures as women age. Calcium supplements are not needed during breastfeeding, and calcium intake during breastfeeding does not affect the level of calcium in the breastmilk.
Myth 8: Breastfeeding ruins the shape of my breasts
Truth: As soon as a woman becomes pregnant permanent changes occur in her breasts. Whether or not she then goes on to breastfeed will not affect her future breast shape one way or another. Heredity plays a large role in this matter, as does excessive weight gain or loss. It is helpful to maintain the tone of the muscles that support your breasts, and avoid large and sudden weight gains or losses, pregnancy-related or otherwise.