Did you know breastfeeding protects your baby from ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and other childhood diseases? Breastfeeding also protects the mother from diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and heart diseases. While there are numerous evidence-based health benefits of breastfeeding, there are still certain myths about breastfeeding and its relationship with baby’s behavior patterns which may lead parents to have certain misconceptions and believe in the negative aspects of breastfeeding.
Myth #1. Breastfed babies can’t sleep properly
Newborns have tiny stomachs, and since the protein in breastmilk is easily digested, they need to drink frequently including in the middle of the night. An infant needs 8 to 12 feedings every 24 hours for the first 3 months to maintain hydration. There is no conclusive evidence to indicate that any feeding method promotes longer night sleep (Riordan, J. 2005). The reason for the long sleep of an infant at 5 months is due to more fully developed nervous system and is unrelated to nutritional factors of breastmilk.
Myth #2. Breastfed babies cry more
Crying is the natural way for babies to communicate with their parents about their needs. The infant has natural reflexes, and behavior cues; crying often is a late indicator of hunger. There are other reasons that infants cry, such as tiredness, bloated stomach from overfeeding, colic, loneliness, room temperature being too hot or too cold, or medical reasons. It is important not to immediately feed your baby every time he/she cries. It is crucial to first soothe a crying infant by cuddling, swinging, singing, and talking before providing feeding.
Myth #3. Breastfed babies are clingy
All babies are different. Some are clingy and some are not, regardless of how they are fed (UNICEF Parenting). Mothers and babies will decide how long they want to breastfeed. The act of breastfeeding establishes a hormonal bond called “oxytocin” that is triggered by the infant’s suckling. This creates not only “milk let down” but also enhances the bond between mother and baby. Research study shows breastfed babies are closer to their mothers compared to bottle-fed babies because of the powerful interaction and physical closeness.
Myth #4. Breastfed babies are skinnier
It is expected that a healthy, full-term newborn will lose 5 to 10 percent of weight during the 1st week of life regardless of breastfeeding or formula feeding. Most babies should regain their birth weight by day 10 to 14, and after that time will gain at least 113 to219 grams per week (Riordan, J. 2005). Generally, breastfed newborns gain weight faster than formula-fed for the first 3 months of life because breast milk is dynamic and changes during each feeding and over time to meet the baby’s growing needs at different stages (Gill, K. & Iftikhar, N. 2020).
More and more mothers attempt to breastfeed because of the extensive health benefits. However, the commitment to breastfeeding is a long-haul, bumpy ride. Parents should have “more realistic expectations” of what is normal infant behavior and get more understanding and support rather than being put off by breastfeeding (Paddock, 2012). Breastfeeding is not just a “one person” job and mothers will need ongoing breastfeeding guidance and support from health care professionals and from family members.
Busted: 14 myths about breastfeeding/ UNICEF Parenting https://www.unicef.org
Gill, K. & Iftikhar, N. (2020). Baby Weight Gain by Week: Averages and Formula-Fed Kids.
Paddock, C. (2012). Breastfeeding Babies Cry More, Harder to Soothe. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com
Riordan, J. (2005). Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. Third Edition.