International Breastfeeding Week is celebrated between August 1 and 7 across the world and the theme chosen for 2016 is ‘Breastfeeding: A key to sustainable development’. In India, while government and corporate policies are still lacking when it comes to supporting new mothers in their breastfeeding journey, a number of Indian mothers have taken it upon themselves to support, normalize and propagate breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM), a three year old peer to peer support group for breastfeeding mothers, their spouses and family members is doing a swell job at educating new mothers on the pros of breastfeeding. At first, a Facebook page created by Aurangabad based Adhunika Prakash, a mother to two and a certified lactation educator and counsellor, BSIM has steadily grown to 20,000 members, some of who are medical professionals, peer counsellors and lactation experts.
For World Breastfeeding Week, Prakash and the women from BSIM have lined up a string of activities centred around breastfeeding that include flash mobs, processions and distributing flyers across several cities of India.
In the flyer, the group has set many myths right in a bid to empower women with information that enables them to take informed decisions along their breastfeeding journey.
Here are 10 myths around breastfeeding that the group wants to clarify.
1.Every bottle of Artificial Baby Milk (ABM) that a baby receives, gives a signal to the mother's body to produce lesser milk.
When a bottle of Artificial Baby Milk (ABM) is given to a baby, the baby feels full for a longer duration since ABM is heavier to digest as compared to breast milk. The baby, therefore, suckles lesser at the breast, which is what gives the mother's body a signal to make lesser milk. Gradually, the amount of ABM increases and the baby begins to get lesser breast milk. This is called the 'Top up trap.' The best way to make enough breast milk for your baby is by letting the baby nurse often and on demand without timing feeds.
2. Breastfeeding is painful.
If breastfeeding is painful and the mother has sore and cracked nipples, it normally means that the latch and/ or positioning needs improvement.
3. Crying is always a sign of hunger
Babies cry for several reasons and hunger is just one of them. Babies may be fussier than usual during the latter part of the day, during growth spurts and during illnesses.
4. Baby breastfeeding often or for too long indicates that the mother has low milk supply
It is normal for breastfed babies to nurse between 8-12 times a day. During a growth spurt, a baby may want to nurse nearly all day and exceed the aforementioned range.
5. Breasts feeling full is sign of adequate milk supply.
Soft breasts, breasts not leaking, baby nursing frequently, baby guzzling down a bottle of ABM/ expressed breast milk after nursing do NOT indicate low milk supply. The best way to ascertain if the baby is getting enough milk is by monitoring nappy count (over 24 hours) along with weight gain plotted on a chart for breastfed babies. Babies over 6 weeks old should have 6+ wet nappies and babies under 6 weeks old need to have adequate wet 'and' dirty nappies over 24 hours.
6. Mothers that are pregnant with twins and triplets can make adequate amount of milk for their babies.
Mothers pregnant with multiples can provide their babies with adequate amount of breastmilk.
7. Mothers that have caesarean deliveries do not produce adequate amount of milk.
Mothers start making milk as early as 16-22 weeks into their pregnancy. This milk is called colostrum and it is all that the baby needs until the milk increases in volume (also called mature milk).
8. Mothers should stop breastfeeding their child once their baby turns a year old.
Most major health organisations recommend that the baby must be exclusively breastfed for a 'minimum' of 6 months. WHO recommends that a child be breastfed for at least 2 years.
9. A mother having medication can breastfeed her baby.
Most medical conditions/ procedures/ medications don't require a mother to wean or even temporarily stop breastfeeding.
10. A mother needs to end her breastfeeding relationship once she resumes working outside the house.
A mother can express breast milk (with a pump or with her hand) for her baby which can be given to her baby in her absence by an alternative care provider.