Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Storage – Myths and Facts
On this page we hope to answer your questions about breastfeeding and breast milk storage:
- Do babies naturally know how to breastfeed?
- Can most mothers produce enough breast milk?
- You can’t breastfeed if the size and shape of your nipples is not perfect
- Breast milk it’s better for baby’s weight and IQ
- Breast milk shouldn’t be frozen
- Breastfeeding always hurts
- Breast size has nothing to do with milk production
- You don’t need to wait for your breasts to fill up with milk
- It is easy to tell how much breast milk your baby is getting
- It makes your boobs sag
While most people assume that breastfeeding and breast milk storage is totally natural, it doesn’t necessarily happen naturally. Plus it does come with a lot of questions and mixed information on the internet. From actual breastfeeding to breast milk storage (breast milk storage bags or bottles?), and expressing or pumping, there’s a lot to learn. In this article we aim to dispel some of the myths and confirm some of the facts.
1. Do babies naturally know how to breastfeed?
Fact: Newborn babies are born with a natural sucking reflex which helps them find the nipple and to ‘latch’. This sucking reflex gives your baby the instinct to suck anything that touches the roof of their mouth. However this sucking reflex does not guarantee successful breastfeeding. Breastfeeding still has to be learned and practiced by both baby and mummy. A newborn will know instinctively how to suck, but getting his lips and your nipple in the right position (called ‘the latch’) may take some trial and error.
2. Most mothers can produce enough breast milk
Fact: Most mothers will produce enough milk for their baby. In fact producing too much milk is quite common. If you think you’re not producing enough breast milk try feeding baby more often, this should help with increasing production. Another concern for new mums is whether baby is getting enough to eat; after all, you can’t measure the amount of breast milk your baby is consuming . But if you hear and see your baby swallowing, he’s drinking. And if he’s filling plenty of diapers with urine and soft, yellow stools (at least eight a day) he’s getting enough nourishment.
3. You can’t breastfeed if the size and shape of your nipples is not perfect
Myth: There is no perfect breast for breastfeeding! Every woman has different sized and shaped breasts and nipples, and every baby is different. Some mums worry that their nipples don’t stand out enough or have nipples that take more ‘coaxing’ to come out. With good help and persistence, most mothers find that breastfeeding becomes easier and that their nipples stay out more and more as their baby gets better at breastfeeding. Even if your baby has problems in the beginning, he or she will eventually get the hang of it.
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4. Breast milk it’s better for baby’s weight and IQ
Myth: If you are not able to breastfeed your baby – or you decide not to – you can rest easy knowing that the beneficial effects of breast milk on babies’ weight and intelligence appear to have been overstated. A 2014 Ohio State University study looked at families in which one baby was breastfed and another was fed formula and found no ‘breast-is-best’ advantage in one child over the other. Though breast milk does have one clear advantage over formula; It contains antibodies that help protect your baby from infections.
5. Breast milk shouldn’t be frozen
Myth: Freshly expressed breast milk can absolutely be frozen! In fact expressed breast milk is the best food for your baby to have when you’re not there. So if you have to go back to work, or you want daddy to take a turn for the night feeds, storing your breast milk is the best option. You can store your breast milk in clean, sterilised breast milk bottles or breast milk bags made from BPA-free materials. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in breast milk storage bags in the back of a deep freezer for up to 6 months.
6. Breastfeeding always hurts
Myth: A lot of mums expect breastfeeding to hurt, and it is true that mum’s nipples may feel tender for the first couple of weeks. But if the baby is latching properly, there shouldn’t be any real pain or soreness. If you are experiencing painful nipples consult your doctor ASAP.
7. Breast size has nothing to do with milk production
Fact: Breast size depends on how much fatty tissue you have. The larger the breast, the more fatty tissue and vice versa. It’s the amount of glandular (milk-producing) tissue in your breast that matters. Usually, if you follow your baby’s lead and breastfeed whenever your baby shows that he or she needs a feed, you will have plenty of milk.
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8. You don’t need to wait for your breasts to fill up with milk
Fact: You don’t need to wait a certain amount of time before putting your baby back to your breast – there is always milk there. Your breasts are making milk all the time. The rate is related to how much your baby drinks. If he or she drinks more or less, your breasts will make more or less. So if your baby still seems hungry after a feed, you can continue to feed as there will always be more milk there for a top-up.
9. It is easy to tell how much breast milk your baby is getting
Myth: It’s pretty difficult to try and determine the quantities of breast milk your baby is consuming. But there are signs to look out for to reassure you that your baby is getting enough food:
- your baby is breastfeeding at least eight times in a 24-hour period;
- there are plenty of wet and dirty nappies;
- your baby is steadily gaining weight;
As long as your baby is doing the above, there is no need to worry about how much breast milk your baby is drinking.
10. Breastfeeding makes your boobs sag
Myth: Breast feeding doesn’t make your boobs sag – it’s pregnancy, rather than breastfeeding that may cause your breasts to change in size and shape after having a baby. Other reasons why your breasts may appear less firm after you’ve had a baby are if you:
- have a high body mass index (raised BMI).
- if you have had several pregnancies.
- did you have a large pre-pregnancy bra size?
- are you a smoker?
Your breasts may not be the same shape as they were before you became pregnant, particularly immediately after you’ve stopped feeding. But in the six months or so after you stop breastfeeding, fatty tissue will gradually replace the milk-producing tissue in your breasts. This will leave your breasts feeling fuller.
As a new mum life can seem pretty overwhelming – you’re getting to know your newborn while recovering from giving birth. Your emotions may be all over the place, plus, there’s often expectation – and pressure – to be up and about quickly and generally be a super-mum. But one of the most super things you can do is just be with your baby and get breastfeeding on track, which will be a different experience for everyone.