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Breastfeeding– the myths, the marvels, and the magic

Written by Annerie Conradie • Online since 4.10.2017 • Filed under Feature • From Issue Fifteen - October to December 2017 page(s) 32-33
Breastfeeding– the myths, the marvels, and the magic

Annerié Conradie, a registered nurse and midwife in private practice, dispels some of the myths about breastfeeding, and shares her tips for success.

The pregnancy journey is a wonderful one – the new mom embarks on an exciting journey of discovery; she researches, plans, buy books, and all while her body is physically changing and adapting as one of life’s biggest miracles unfolding inside her. Women share their stories with the new mother, without prompting. Some are positive and others sadly, are very negative.

‘I don’t know if I will have enough milk, I hear it’s very painful, none of the women in my family can breastfeed, what if my milk dries up or is not nutritious enough,’ are concerns raised daily by expecting mothers. However, with the right advice and support during and after the baby’s birth, the breastfeeding journey can be an enjoyable one.

The milk-making mechanism

Most women can produce an adequate supply of milk. However, a common misperception is that you’re not producing enough milk. It’s important to realise that the more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce. For this reason, supplementing with formula can be detrimental to your milk supply. In the early days after your baby’s birth, the milk produced is called colostrum, referred to by many as the ‘Golden Liquid’ because it’s very nutritious and packed with antibodies. You should begin nursing as soon as possible after birth because your baby’s sucking instinct will be very strong at that time, giving you the best chance of success. Remember, babies are wired to breastfeed; all they need is your patience as they practice the skill. As your baby continues to breastfeed, the milk will gradually change in colour and consistency from thick and yellow, to a thinner blueish-white milk.

The latch…

What if my baby does not latch? This is another common concern that is raised. New mothers are advised to put the baby in skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. This close contact allows your baby to smell, lick and taste the breast and nipple. The root-suckle-swallow reflex is very strong and well stimulated while your baby is exploring its new environment. When a mother does struggle to get the latch right, it is advised to get help from a skilled lactation consultant. The hospital staff should be able to provide you with a list of reputable consultants.

How often and how much?

Newborns need small, regular feeds as the tummy size is quite small in the early days and breastmilk digests rapidly. Hence, moms should not force their babies into a strict feeding schedule and should be prepared for feedings that vary in length. It is this frequent nursing that stimulates your breasts to produce increasing amounts of milk to keep up with the baby’s demand.

How do I know if my baby is hungry?

Babies are born with feeding reflexes. These include:

• The rooting reflex

• Baby suckling hand/fingers

• Darting tongue

• Baby cycles arms and legs

• If held against a mother’s body, the baby does head lifting and bobbing movements

Myths about low milk supply

A mother wants the best for her baby, and keeping her well-nourished is one of her biggest concerns. The following are not indicators of low milk supply:

• Shorter feeds

• No leaking

• Small breasts

• Soft breasts

• Not feeling the let-down reflex

• Frequent feeds

• Baby not settling down after feeding

• No milk expressed with a breast pump

Your baby is drinking adequate amounts if she has six to eight wet nappies per day, and gains weight of about 200 to 250g per week. If you are worried about your baby’s feeding, it is advised to contact a lactation consultant to assess feeding and monitor the baby’s weight.

When breast pumps do more harm than good

Breast pumps are amazing tools for the times when a mom wants to maintain giving the baby breastmilk but is physically unable to breastfeed, for example because of work commitments or hospitalisation.

Breast pumps were never meant to replace the baby at a mother’s breast. Hormone release is very different when a mother expresses versus when a baby is physically feeding on the breast. The hormone, Oxytocin (also called the love hormone), is the hormone that makes the milk available to the baby upon suckling. However, with a breast pump, the release of this hormone is compromised. In other words, a mom can have full breasts but upon expressing, not have a drop fall in the bottle. This in turn causes massive stress and panic, leading the mom to believe that she ‘has no milk’. And when the stress hormone rises, the love hormone drops.

Another important factor before using a breast pump is to make sure that the cones used to express are a perfect fit for the mother’s nipple and breast size. Pain and discomfort from expressing hampers the success of expressing. Signs of ‘enough milk’ is never seen in the amount of milk expressed. Frequent feeding is normal breastfeeding behaviour and not a sign of an underfed, hungry baby. Where expressing is advised, it is beneficial for the mother to do so with the necessary education and guidance of a skilled lactation consultant.

Tips for success

Tips to successfully reach breastfeeding goals:

• Sign up for antenatal breastfeeding education

• Choose a mother baby friendly hospital

• Approach your employer prior to maternity leave to establish your company’s policy regarding breastfeeding

• Nursing moms should drink plenty of water

• Carry on with multi vitamins and follow a nutritious diet

• Be careful of quick fixes. Ask for help from a knowledgeable professional

• Choose one or two people to advise with feeding; too many opinions will easily overwhelm you

• Do not rely on potions/recipes to increase milk supply

• Be patient

• Trust your instincts

Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different. Some start with bells and whistle success, others quietly and over a longer period. When your baby is nestled on your chest, being nurtured and cared for in a way only you as the mother can, it’s in that moment where the magic lies.


Annerié Conradie is a registered nurse and midwife (B.Cur) in private practice in Port Elizabeth. She is a mother of two daughters (Incke 12, and Kristin 9). She has 15 years’ post-graduate experience in mother and child care and is a SACLC (South African Certified Lactation Consultant) student.

Issue Fifteen - October to December 2017

Issue Fifteen - October to December 2017

This article was featured on page 32-33 of Babys and Beyond Issue Fifteen - October to December 2017 .

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