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6 Breastfeeding Myths busted

Is it wrong to eat spicy food when breastfeeding? Paediatrician, Dr Janine Brink and dietitian Anél Kirsten helped us bust some well-known breastfeeding myths.

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∇  Dr Janine:


After the initial tingling and stinging feeling, which lasts about 10 seconds, breastfeeding should be painless. It is all about the latching. A good latch leads to pain-free, successful breastfeeding. Your baby’s bottom lip should be curled down, top lip curled up, and you should be able to see more of the areola(dark part of breast), above the top lip, than below the lower lip. Yes, if you continue breastfeeding with poor latching, it will burn like fire! This then leads to cracked, painful and bleeding nipples. If you notice your baby is not latching well, stop! Gently place your finger in between the breast and your baby’s mouth, break the seal, and try again. If things go wrong, and you do end up with painful nipples, do not stop breastfeeding. Laser works like a charm, as well as any nipple cream with Lanolin in.

A cheap, easy and convenient alternative to creams…breastmilk! After feeding, rub a bit of breastmilk on the nipples, it is full of wonderful things that help to ease the pain.

∇  Dr Janine:


It is very, very rare for a mom to need to stop breastfeeding for any illness. There are a few serious instances where a mom would be required to stop nursing, but these are few and far between. In fact, in most cases, the best thing you can do for your baby when you are ill, is to continue breastfeeding. Your baby has been exposed to the virus/bacteria for long before you started getting sick. Your milk will not transmit the illness to your baby, but does have antibodies to the specific illness, which will either protect your baby from getting sick, or if he does, will prevent him from getting seriously ill.  During colds, flu, sore throat, stomach bugs, mastitis etc, make sure you wash your hands regularly, avoid coughing/sneezing on the baby, limit face-to-face contact and remind your doctor that you are nursing when prescribing medication, and you can breastfeed to your heart’s content.

Remind your doctor that you are nursing when prescribing medication, and you can breastfeed to your heart’s content.

∇  Dr Janine:

If for any reason you are unable to breastfeed, formula milk is more than adequate. It is standardised, nutritious and filled with all the vitamins and minerals your child needs. However, it is not breast milk! Breast milk is a magical substance that changes constantly according to your child’s needs. The calorie filled colostrum at the beginning is like condensed milk to your baby, pure gold! Then it changes to fore- and hind milk, which saturates thirst and hunger respectively. Breast milk contains antibodies that you have built up over a lifetime, keeping your baby healthy and free from a lot of disease. It is also full of hormones, like cortisol, that enhances growth and especially brain development. In short, yes, formula milk is nutritionally adequate, but will never be as good as breast milk.

∇  Dietitian |Anél :

Breastmilk is regarded at the ‘Perfect food’ – containing just the right amount of nutrition to support immune system development and general growth and development. Another massive positive for breastfeeding is that breastmilk leave an imprint on immune system for life. Breastmilk protects against allergies and immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis later in life. Breastfed babies have lower rates of infection and illness, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease in later life. Breastmilk is the benchmark. Breastmilk is unique and companies are continuously busy to try and improve infant formula and making it as close as possible to breastmilk. So – if you are unable to breast feed then formula milk would be a good alternative. The infant formula closest to breastmilk would be one that is whey based, contain nucleotides, Omega 3 + 6 fats as well as pre- and/or probiotics.

∇ Anél  | Dietitian:


This is a topic of controversy. There is the argument that breastfeeding mothers in countries such as Thailand, India, Mexico and in other places where hot and spicy foods are common most likely don’t stop eating these foods when they breastfeed. They continue to eat the same foods they ate before pregnancy without much fuss from their babies that are breastfed. Therefore breastfeeding women are advised to relax and eat what they enjoy. If a baby is sensitive to food their mother eat (spicy or not), then the mother will know! The baby would be fussy after feedings, cry inconsolably, sleep very little and wake abruptly … and seem uncomfortable. This could most possibly be caused by a food allergy and not necessarily a reaction to spicy food. However, from personal experience and from working with mothers for many years, I tell mothers that eating spicy food is up to them ….. If they feel adventurous go for spice. BUT in most cases new moms are so tired and sleep deprived that eating spicy food and taking the chance that you may possibly have an unhappy and unsettled baby are not worth taking the trip down to the curry house. Some babies are fine with spicy food and others are not!

∇  Dr Janine:


This myth is sort of true. An important thing to remember when breastfeeding, is that your baby eats whatever you eat. The more wholesome and nutritious your meals, the better the quality of your milk. Spicy food can cause cramps and discomfort in some babies, but not all of them. Same with coffee and chocolate. You will get to know your baby’s likes and dislikes very quickly, and you will quickly learn what makes your baby uncomfortable. It might be spicy food, it might be chocolate, it might even be strong cheeses, or sometimes, something completely random.

∇  Dr Janine:


The WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months in all babies, and that breastfeeding continues for 2 years or beyond. The American Association of Paediatrics recommends breastfeeding for 12 months. Any amount of time you breastfeed, will benefit your baby. Even if it’s a month, 3 months or a year, the amount your baby will gain from breast milk is tremendous.

∇ Anél  | Dietitian


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. What we should keep in mind is that these guidelines need to cover the entire world – first world and third world countries, in third world countries these mothers most likely can’t afford infant formula and may resort to milk alternatives such as coffee creamers which could lead to malnutrition should the discontinue breastfeeding. I am of the opinion, if a mother enjoys breastfeeding, she can continue for as long as she and their baby want to. That could mean until baby is a year, or even two years, old. Most women set goals for breastfeeding of between three months and a year, depending on circumstances such as going back to work and having the necessary support.

∇  Dr Janine:


Fortunately babies are clever little things! Although breastfeeding and bottle feeding require different skills, they are able to do both, and do them well. Expressing milk, and bottle feeding your baby is completely acceptable, and sometimes necessary. Because bottle feeding is easier, and requires less effort than breast feeding, babies might become a little lazy to breastfeed again, but they will quickly adapt and breastfeed like before.

∇ Anél  | Dietitian:


You can do both at the same time! It’s perfectly possible to combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding using formula milk or expressed breastmilk. Combining breastfeeds with formula feeds is much better for your baby than stopping breastfeeds altogether. It’s also an option that could suit you if you go back to work. If you want to can, perhaps wait until your baby is at least eight weeks old. Combining breast and bottle sooner than this may affect your milk supply. If not possible and baby is not getting enough milk then resort to formula milk top-ups AFTER breast feeds.

Dr Janine recently gave birth to twins!

Last words from Dr Janine

“I would like to add another myth: Breastfeeding is easy… Breastfeeding is hard, its frustrating, its time-consuming, its waking up in puddles of milk…in the beginning. And then, one day, something clicks. You and your baby find each other, and together you find a rhythm, and it becomes easy and convenient and special and one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. So whatever you do, just stick it out, don’t give up, and in the end, both you and your baby will reap the rewards!”

Contact her here

More about Anél:


Mama to two busy boys, Anél is the owner of Paarl Dietitians. Anél completed her Master’s Degree in Nutrition (2011) – her thesis focused on Childhood Obesity. As an experienced public speaker, Anél often presents talks to the public and other health professionals – keeping them up to date with the latest nutrition-related topics and research. She consults regularly for the media and writes for the Baba & Kleuter magazine, as well as online magazines Parenting Hub, Wellness Hub and HeyMamaMag on various nutrition related topics in children.

Contact her here

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