December 13, 2021 6 min read
As a new breastfeeding mum, I was so clueless. I wondered how much milk is enough for my baby and worried why my baby would not latch? Quite often, I would turn to Google, Facebook groups, and friends for answers and support. This is when I chanced upon the Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group in Singapore (BMSG) a few years ago. They have poured out their precious time to support mummies like us. They offer breastfeeding advice and have been doing this for thirty years. They are doing a wonderful job by being there for new mums.
At Lovemère, we are passionate about giving back to our community. We understand how important it is for new mums to get the right help and support. And thus, it is a pleasure to let mummies know how to get the right help through our platform.
This month, we are very fortunate to have a chat with Ms Mariam Shaheen from BMSG, and understand some interesting facts behind the scenes in supporting this Facebook group community of over 29,000 members. BMSG also helps hundreds of mums over their telephone and WhatsApp helplines every month.
Watch this video till the end to get the answers to the most common breastfeeding question. The video also has useful tips for new mothers.
Breastfeeding unfortunately carries a lot of myths and misconceptions with it. With the help of BMSG's inputs, here we bust the top 5 myths around breastfeeding.
1) Milk only comes in a few days after birth
Milk exists in its early form as colostrum and gradually transforms into mature milk. The more a baby latches during the early days, the faster mature milk will come in. However, this does not mean that the baby does not take in any milk at all. Colostrum exists in small amounts and is best accessed by babies via direct latching. This also matches the size of the baby's tummy which is as small as a shooter marble at birth and gradually grows with the baby.
If mum is unable to latch the baby directly, she should get the assistance of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or try to hand express her colostrum/milk into a syringe to be fed to the baby. Because colostrum exists in small amounts, using a pump might lose the colostrum to the pump parts itself.
2) Giving my baby formula and breastmilk is the best of both worlds
Breast Milk is always age-appropriate and provides all that babies need especially during their first six months of life. It is amazing that breast milk coats the digestive tracts with a protective layer to prevent pathogens, germs, and other allergens from entering the baby's immature systems. This can only happen because breastmilk is made for babies - even as a child grows, breastmilk changes according to the needs of the child.
A lot of mothers assume that baby formula, which comes with claims that it contains all the good vitamins and nutrition, provides the extra nutrients that babies are purported to receive. This is not accurate because breast milk contains the perfect makeup of nutrition for babies, from antibodies to essential vitamins and minerals. There is thus no need to supplement with formula if the baby is latching very well and able to have a sufficient number of diapers from latching alone. And even if mums are unable to latch on demand or have a shortfall of supply, mothers can turn to milk donations to continue providing babies with breastmilk.
Formula also contains added sugar and cow's milk protein - sugar impacts baby's palate just like how young children have a preference for sweet foods when they are exposed to it. Cow's milk protein, on the other hand, is a known allergen that has been responsible for sensitivities and allergies in children. Babies on formula may also develop constipation.
3) Breastfed babies tend to be smaller
All babies come in a variation of sizes just like adults. However, there is a misconception that breastfed babies are fed milk which are not 'fatty' enough as compared to formula and hence appear leaner. This is false. A baby's size is first and foremost dependent on genetics (and there are chubby breastfed babies too!). The conventional growth charts are also more indicative for formula feeding babies. The WHO charts are a better choice when plotting baby's growth.
A breastfed baby is also able to regulate food at the breast - babies usually stop feeding when they have had enough and will not overeat. This is a good eating habit because it also means that breastfed children grow up knowing how to regulate their appetite. Unlike formula milk, which contains added ingredients, breast milk is nutritionally perfect for babies. Even if babies end up latching for comfort, the mechanics of breastfeeding is such that babies will not become obese from drinking lots of breastmilk.
It is also known that some breastfed babies may drink breast milk from a bottle just like formula-fed babies. Parents can employ the paced bottlefeeding technique because this mimics breastfeeding. This technique prevents overeating at the bottle, which can be a problem when mothers are not able to match their supply with the amount that their babies consume. In fact, there are also babies who do not consume breast milk from a bottle at all. Parents and caregivers can turn to soft spout sippy cups for babies who are ready, straw, cup, spoon or even finger feeding.
4) Breastfeeding makes babies clingy
Clinginess is dependent on the baby's temperament and breastfeeding is a convenient scapegoat. Babies are naturally born to be part of the mother - just because a mother is with the baby most of the time does not mean that other family members are not able to bond with the baby. There are many other things that family members can do such as bathing the baby, rocking the baby, babywearing, changing diapers, talking and bonding with the baby.
It is innate for a baby to know its mother closely since they have been together since conception. It is also healthy for the baby to be close to mummy after birth. Skin-to-skin contact is essential during the early days after birth as it promotes hormonal response from mothers while also keeping the baby warm and safe. However, a baby is constantly growing and learning about their environment. Family members can make themselves available not just to help mothers out but to also form a relationship with the baby.
5) Breastmilk is not as filling as formula milk
Again, this is based on the false belief that breastmilk is inferior to other types of milk.
This is also based on the fact that breastmilk in itself does not look like the typical homogeneous milk on the shelves. However, if you observe breast milk after being expressed and stored, you will find breast milk separated into layers - there is the watery part of the milk which quenches the baby's thirst and there is also the fatty part of the milk which keeps the baby full. We always say that breastmilk is a full course meal - appetiser, mains and desserts - so it’s a complete meal at every feed.
If a baby directly latches from the mother, it is encouraged for the baby to drink till the breast is emptied. This helps the baby receive the full course meal including the fattier part of the milk (the 'dessert') and this helps to keep the baby full.
However, a baby who feeds on demand and produces ample diapers in a day, may still drink regularly especially on hot days or during growth spurt periods just like us adults. Some babies are also snackers, especially older babies who get distracted during feeds. Latching on demand is a great way to ensure that a baby gets the milk that they need and we can monitor the baby's intake by observing that the baby is meeting their developmental milestones, having good weight gain and healthy amount of diapers.
The best thing is that breastmilk is gentle on the baby's tummy - it gets easily digested and the baby drinks more when hungry. On the other hand, formula may be harder for a baby's tummy to digest and takes longer too, which is falsely believed to be a sign of fullness.
Thank you BMSG for offering useful breastfeeding information. If you are interested to be a BMSG counsellor, they are open for application for 2022 and you can apply through this link.
If you require breastfeeding support, contact BMSG on the following platforms:
- BMSG Telephone Line / WhatsApp: +65 6339 3558
- BMSG Private Facebook Group:bit.ly/BMSGgroup
Hope the above information is helpful to you. Do share this blog with new mums to help them get valuable information.
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