The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous and it seems like new ones are popping up in scientific studies each day.
However, nursing can be a struggle for many moms and babies due to common misconceptions that complicate the process.
In this article, our experts debunk common nursing myths so you can learn more about the incredible benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby.
What Are The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?
It’s been proven that breastfeeding can have numerous positive outcomes for the mother and baby. The advantages of breastfeeding for an infant are a sufficient intake of essential nutrients and protection against infections and food allergies. These include lower rates of diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. It can also promote healthy intellectual and motor skills development.
Breastfeeding is also beneficial for mothers. It stimulates the uterus to contract and return to its normal size. It can also lower the risk of anemia, breast and ovarian cancers, suppress postpartum bleeding, and reduce the frequency of urinary tract infections. Nursing a child can also accelerate postpartum weight loss while helping moms maintain a consistent breast milk supply.
Debunking Common Nursing Myths
While there are many science-backed benefits of breastfeeding, many new mothers are still uncertain about nursing their babies. This is mainly due to false information about breastfeeding and breast milk. We’ll debunk some of those myths below.
Myth 1. You Can’t Eat Certain Foods While Breastfeeding
THE TRUTH: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastfeeding women should eat a healthy and well-balanced diet. Generally, most types of foods are acceptable as long as they are eaten in moderation.
However, moms should limit the intake of fish and seafood that are high in mercury. Caffeine is also not recommended.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), breastfeeding mothers are also advised to watch their diet. A simple and balanced consumption of food whilst staying hydrated is key. Drink more soup and water but stay away from cold and spicy foods. You should also refrain from eating fried foods as it can lead to ’heatiness‘ in the baby.
“The excessive consumption of these foods can harm your spleen and stomach, which leads to a decrease in milk production. This is because these organs are linked to the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food and produce sufficient milk,” says Eu Yan Sang Physician Ho Li Ying.
She suggests the consumption of appetite-improving, spleen-invigorating ingredient like Si Shen powder, Codonopsis (Dangshen), Poria (Fuling), Chinese yam (Shanyao), and red dates (Dazao) in whole and tea forms.
Myth 2. You Can’t Breastfeed When You’re Sick
THE TRUTH: Only a select few illnesses require you to stop breastfeeding your child. For example, diseases that are caused by a contagious virus. Usually, minor ailments would not pose a risk to you or your child when you breastfeed.
Even when you are feeling under the weather, it’s advisable to continue breastfeeding as breast milk contains antibodies, which help prevent and fight infections in babies.
A recent study shows that mothers who have acquired immunity via the COVID-19 vaccine, produced robust Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. While these antibodies can be passed on to infants, scientists caution that they are not a substitute for vaccination and do not provide nursing babies with protection against COVID-19.
It’s crucial that you stay healthy after delivery. TCM advises new mothers to replenish their blood and qi (vital life energy) by consuming herbal formulations and some health foods. Some good examples include bird’s nest, essence of chicken, and roasted rice tea.
You can also take herbal soups containing astragalus (Huangqi), American ginseng (Xiyangshen), and Chinese Angelica (Dongquai) to nourish the body. Additionally, light exercises can help to improve blood circulation and overall vitality.
Myth 3. Weaning Your Baby After A Year Is Hard
THE TRUTH: There isn’t any evidence to indicate that stopping breastfeeding after a year is more difficult. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends nursing for up to two years.
Myth 4. Breastfeeding Can Make You Gain Weight
THE TRUTH: Many women believe that breastfeeding can cause them to put on weight. However, study shows that the primary cause of weight gain in new mothers is a poor diet and lack of physical activity. The study further states that less than 30% of breastfeeding women eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, a majority of them are not meeting physical activity recommendations. These factors lead to weight gain, which causes many women to turn to crash diets.
Interestingly, breastfeeding may help you lose weight instead. According to one study, women who breastfeed require an additional 500 kcal/day. If breastfeeding mothers maintain their regular calorie intake, body stores or body fat will be used for lactation. From this perspective, women who nurse are actually burning more calories than non-breastfeeding moms.
Rapid weight-loss diets are unsuitable for breastfeeding moms as they can impair milk production. To ensure a healthy milk supply and safe weight loss (0.5 to 1 kg per month) in the first six months after delivery, consume a nutritious, balanced diet.
Myth 5. You Won’t Make Milk If You Have Small Breasts
THE TRUTH: The size of your breasts doesn’t matter. Essentially, breast tissue growth is a direct, natural response to your need to feed your baby. It’s also worth noting that apart from adequate hydration, sufficient rest, a balanced diet and a consistent breastfeeding regime, the use of herbs can also be good for stimulating milk production.
A few of the herbs that a breastfeeding mum can consider include Codonopsis (Dangshen), Radix Platycodi (Jiegeng), Vaccaria seed (Wangbuliuxing), rice paper pith (Tongcao) and Taiwan maple fruit (Lulutong).
There are many proven benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby. If you want to try herbal remedies to enhance your milk production, speak to a licensed TCM practitioner. This ensures the right formula or ingredients for your specific body constitution.
This is an adaptation of an article, “The benefits and myths of breastfeeding”, which first appeared on Health123 website.
- World Health Organization. Breastfeeding.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Maternal Diet.
- BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020. Healthy eating and physical activity among breastfeeding women: the role of misinformation.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. 2021. New Study Finds Evidence of COVID Antibodies in Breast Milk of Vaccinated Mothers.
- US National Library of Medicine. 2017. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation.
- Parents. 2012. Breastfeeding Myths: Experts Set the Record Straight.
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