Thursday, August 5, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week

A mother who bleeds from her nipples should not breastfeed. Not true! Though blood makes the baby spit up more, and the blood may even show up in his bowel movements, this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding the baby. Nipples that are painful and bleeding are not worse than nipples that are painful and not bleeding. It is the pain the mother is having that is the problem. This nipple pain can often be helped considerably. Get help. Sometimes mothers have bleeding from the nipples that is obviously coming from inside the breast and is not usually associated with pain. This often occurs in the first few days after birth and settles within a few days. The mother should not stop breastfeeding for this. If bleeding does not stop soon, the source of the problem needs to be investigated, but the mother should keep breastfeeding.

A woman who has had breast augmentation surgery cannot breastfeed. Not true! Most do very well. There is no evidence that breastfeeding with silicone implants is harmful to the baby. Occasionally this operation is done through the areola. These women do have often have problems with milk supply, as does any woman who has an incision around the areolar line.

A woman who has had breast reduction surgery cannot breastfeed. Not true! Breast reduction surgery does often decrease the mother's capacity to produce milk, but since many mothers produce more than enough milk, some mothers who have had breast reduction surgery sometimes can breastfeed exclusively. In such a situation, the establishment of breastfeeding should be done with special care. However, if the mother seems not to produce enough, she can still breastfeed, supplementing with a lactation aid (so that artificial nipples do not interfere with breastfeeding).

Premature babies need to learn to take bottles before they can start breastfeeding. Not true! Premature babies are less stressed by breastfeeding than by bottle feeding. A baby as small as 2 pounds and even smaller can start at the breast as soon as he is stable, though he may not latch on for several weeks. Still, he is learning and he is being held which is important for his wellbeing and his mother's. Actually, weight or gestational age do not matter as much as the baby's readiness to suck, as determined by his making sucking movements. There is no more reason to give bottles to premature babies than to full term babies. When supplementation is truly required there are ways to supplement without using artificial nipples.

Babies with cleft lip and/or palate cannot breastfeed. Not true! Some do very well. Babies with a cleft lip only usually manage fine. But many babies with cleft palate do indeed find it very difficult to latch on. There is no doubt, however, that if breastfeeding is not even tried, for sure the baby won’t breastfeed. The baby's ability to breastfeed does not always seem to depend on the severity of the cleft. Breastfeeding should be started, as much as possible, using the principles of proper establishment of breastfeeding.  If bottles are given, they will undermine the baby's ability to breastfeed. If the baby needs to be fed, but is not latching on, a cup can and should be used in preference to a bottle. Finger feeding occasionally is successful in babies with cleft lip/palate, but not usually.

Women with small breasts produce less milk than those with large breasts. Nonsense!

Breastfeeding does not provide any protection against becoming pregnant. Not true! It is not a foolproof method, but no method is. In fact, breastfeeding is not a bad method of child spacing, and gives reliable protection especially during the first six months after birth. It is almost as good as the Pill if the baby is under six months of age, if breastfeeding is exclusive, and if the mother has not yet had a normal menstrual period after giving birth. After the first six months, the protection is less, but still present, and on average, women breastfeeding into the second year of life will have a baby every two to three years even without any artificial method of contraception.  Please note the "Not a foolproof method and keep in mind the "if" parts."

Breastfeeding women cannot take the birth control pill. Not true! The question is not about exposure to female hormones, to which the baby is exposed anyway through breastfeeding. The baby gets only a tiny bit more from the pill. However, some women who take the pill, even the progestin only pill, find that their milk supply decreases. Estrogen-containing pills are more likely to decrease the milk supply. Because so many women produce more than enough, this sometimes does not matter, but sometimes it does even in the presence of an abundant supply, and the baby becomes fussy and is not satisfied by breastfeeding. Babies respond to the rate of flow of milk, not what's "in the breast", so that even a very good milk supply may seem to cause the baby who is used to faster flow to be fussy. Stopping the pill often brings things back to normal. If possible, women who are breastfeeding should avoid the pill, or at least wait until the baby is taking other foods (usually around 6 months of age). Even if the baby is older, the milk supply may decrease significantly. If the pill must be used, it is preferable to use the progestin only pill (without estrogen).

Breastfeeding babies need other types of milk after six months. Not true! Breastmilk gives the baby everything there is in other milks and more. Babies older than six months should be started on solids mainly so that they learn how to eat and so that they begin to get another source of iron, which by 7-9 months, is not supplied in sufficient quantities from breastmilk alone. Thus cow's milk or formula will not be necessary as long as the baby is breastfeeding. However, if the mother wishes to give milk after 6 months, there is no reason that the baby cannot get cow's or goat’s milk, as long as the baby is still breastfeeding a few times a day, and is also getting a wide variety of solid foods in more than minimal amounts. Most babies older than six months who have never had formula will not accept it because of the taste.

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