For some mothers, breastfeeding is smooth going from the get-go.
For other mothers, getting breastfeeding working well for them and their baby can be challenging.
What can make it harder is hearing false beliefs about breastmilk and breastfeeding.
We hear information from our friends, from the media and from a variety of healthcare providers.
It can be hard to decipher between the truth about breastmilk and false beliefs.
As science continues to find out more about breastmilk we are understanding just how false some beliefs are. Of course breastmilk is the normal food for human infants so science doesn't need to prove anything, but it does help us to understand more about it.
Unfortunately, even today, certain false beliefs about breast milk quality continue.
Breast Milk Quality Myths
Here are 5 myths about breast milk quality, as well as facts to dispel them:
Breast Milk Quality Myth #1: “My Milk Isn’t Fatty Enough”
The amount of fat in breastmilk is not influenced by a mother’s diet, even during fasting (e.g. during Ramadan).
The amount of fat consumed by a breastfed baby in a 24 hour period is also unrelated to how often she breastfeeds. A baby who has small frequent breastfeeds can have the same daily fat intake as a baby who has infrequent large breastfeeds.
Feeding a baby according to her own needs, will help her get the amount of breastmilk she needs to help her grow how she is meant to.
Breast Milk Quality Myth #2: “You Need To Have A Perfect Diet When Breastfeeding”
A breastfeeding mother who doesn’t have a perfect diet will still make quality breastmilk. The average Australian diet typically provides most breastfeeding mothers with ample nutrients to ensure her breastmilk isn’t deficient in any nutrient.
It is still advisable for a breastfeeding mother (like all mothers) to eat well, even if for her own benefit. Being a mother can be tiring, both physically and emotionally. A good diet can help mothers feel their best as they navigate the challenges of parenthood.
For more information about diet and breastmilk read here.
Breast Milk Quality Myth #3: “My Baby Doesn't Get Enough Hindmilk/Gets Too Much Foremilk From My Breastmilk”
There are a few myths about foremilk and hindmilk you can read about here.
When a baby feeds from a full breast, at the start of the feed she gets milk that is lower in fat/calories (so-called foremilk). As the feed continues she gets a higher concentration of fat/calories (so-called hindmilk).
When a baby feeds from a breast that is well-drained, at the start of the feed she gets milk that is high in fat/calories.
It is usually unnecessary for a mother to worry about foremilk and hindmilk. Feeding a baby when she needs to feed helps ensure she gets the right mix of breastmilk.
Breast Milk Quality Myth #4: “My Breastmilk Isn't Strong Enough”
The overall amount of fat, lactose and protein in a mother’s breastmilk is not influenced by her diet. This means that the overall caloric content of a mother’s breastmilk is not influenced by her diet.
Again, feeding a baby according to her own need will help ensure she gets what she needs. Frequent feeds aren't an indication of your milk's quality. Some babies feed more frequently taking smaller amounts at each breastfeed. Other babies feed less often and take in larger amounts of breastmilk at each feed. Each mother baby pair has a unique feeding pattern.
Breast Milk Quality Myth #5: “Newborns Need More Than Just Colostrum”
Newborns have very tiny tummies – about the size of a marble. This means they are unable to drink large volumes of milk in the early days.
A mother makes colostrum in the early days. Colostrum is a concentrated source of immune-protective factors, protein and minerals. It is designed to match a newborn’s needs in the early days – providing her with protection from infection, helping her to pass meconium (her first poo) and colonising her gut with healthy bacteria. It is all most healthy newborn babies need.
Breast Milk Quality Myth #6: “Breast Milk Loses It's Nutritional Value After X Months/Years”
Breastmilk continues to provide a valuable source of nutrition and immune protective factors for as long as a child breastfeeds. In fact, research shows that breastfeeding a toddler can provide 29% of his daily energy needs, 43% of his protein requirements, 75% of his vitamin A requirements and 60% of his vitamin C requirements.
As you navigate all the varying breastfeeding advice and information, remember that breastfeeding is our biological norm. Science may not have proven every benefit thus far, but we are certain it is designed specifically for human babies.
Before you decide that your breastmilk isn’t good enough, be sure to seek support and advice from a lactation professional such as an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor, La Leche League leader or see an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). In most cases, they will be able to put your mind at ease.