Breast milk is the best food source for newborn babies. Some mothers have questions about whether to breastfeed or to formula feed their babies. The Obstetrics and Gynecology specialists of the Royal Victoria Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) can provide information to new mothers and help them make the best choice for their families.
Common Myths about breastfeeding...
There are many myths about breastfeeding. These myths may influence a new mother's decision about breastfeeding her newborn. In order to separate fact from fiction, the Obstetric and Gynecology specialists of the MUHC debunk some common myths:
Breast milk and formula are equivalent foods for newborn infants.FALSE
The truth is... Breastfeeding is the preferred method for feeding infants. Breast milk is perfectly adapted to meet the needs of the growing infant. It is the superior method of infant feeding.
Breastfeeding is complicated and painful. FALSE
The truth is... Mothers and newborns often take one to two weeks to learn the basic technique of breastfeeding, then another three to four weeks to become completely comfortable with each other. From that point on, breastfeeding becomes much easier than bottle feeding. Some nipple soreness is common in the first week, but after that, breastfeeding should never hurt (pain is a sign that something is wrong).
Women who smoke should not breastfeed. FALSE
The truth is... Although it is important to support women in their attempts to stop or reduce smoking, breastfeeding is still the best choice even if the mother continues to smoke.
A new mother cannot produce healthy milk unless she eats well. FALSE
The truth is... A breastfeeding mother should try to eat a balanced diet. She is not obligated to eat any special foods or to avoid others. Even women with poor nutrition will usually make enough milk, unless very low-calorie diets are maintained for long periods of time.
Breastfeeding complicates family life. FALSE
The truth is... Mothers can breastfeed anywhere. Breastfeeding can be performed very discreetly in public, and mother's milk is always ready and available.
Fathers cannot be involved with the baby if the mother is breastfeeding. FALSE
The truth is... The father can be intimately involved in caring for the baby even if this does not include feeding. The father can assist the mother and can play with the baby, as well as bathe, change, dress and cuddle the baby.
Breastfeeding ruins a mother's figure. FALSE
The truth is... Women can combine breastfeeding and work schedules in many different ways. Partial breastfeeding and pumping the breasts to express breast milk to feed the baby are alternatives when breastfeeding alone is not feasible.
Important facts to consider when choosing a feeding method for your infant
- Breast milk is all that is needed to support the needs of your growing infant for the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life with continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.
- Women who are confident about breastfeeding are likely to succeed with it.
- A woman's personal experiences and the support of people around her will influence her decision to breastfeed. Women with supportive partners and families are more likely to succeed with breastfeeding.
Adapted from: Health Canada. Family Centered Maternity and Newborn Care. National Guidelines, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Ottawa, 2000.