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You may have heard that "breast is best", but that message may have been accompanied by some pretty weird beliefs. Do you believe any of these common breastfeeding myths? It's time to stop!
Baby Not Gaining Weight In A Textbook Way? Your Milk Is To Blame!
Is your baby in the fifth percentile, hasn't gained very much since the last weigh-in, or just looks like a slim little thing? Many people — including, sometimes, your pediatrician — will be quick to suggest your breast milk as the culprit, and formula as the solution. Perhaps there isn't "enough fat in your milk", you "don't have enough milk" or "your baby is a bad nurser". The old wives' tale that breast milk sucks (excuse the pun) is so common that you may be quick to fall for it.
Research suggests that breastfed babies and formula-fed babies have different growth patterns. While they start off with very similar growth patterns, that all changes between four and six months. Formula-fed babies gain weight more quickly at that point. The interesting thing? The average length and head circumference stay similar in both groups.
Remember that the "average" baby — the 50th percentile one — is a very rare specimen indeed.
Someone has to be in the fifth percentile. That's OK, even if the baby happens to be exclusively breastfed.
A baby's weight gain or lack thereof can be completely normal. The important thing is that the baby is either gaining weight or staying at the same weight for a little while, but not losing any. (Wait a second. Other things, like whether your baby is content and meeting developmental milestones, are even more important.)
Are you a breastfeeding mom who has been subjected to comments about your baby's weight? You may comforted by the fact that formula-fed babies are more prone to obesity later in life than their breastfed peers, who are also often encouraged to drink that last bit of milk out of the bottle even if they're not hungry anymore. Their suck reflex makes it nearly impossible for them not to. Nursing requires a conscious effort on the other hand, so forcing a breastfed baby to nurse more than they want is really not going to happen.
When should you be concerned? If your baby is losing weight, cries a lot, or does not have a sufficient number of wet and dirty diapers, you should discuss your options with your pediatrician.
Crying Babies Must Be Hungry
All babies cry at least a little, and some babies cry a lot. Why do babies cry? Well, there really aren't millions of reasons. They may be too hot, too cold, have a wet or dirty diaper, or have some other physical discomfort. They may be in pain, they may crave human interaction and want to be held, they may be tired, or they may be hungry. Those things roughly sum it up. Sometimes, though, the reason for which a baby cries is not readily identifiable. In such cases, if the baby is breastfed, it's not uncommon to suggest the baby is hungry because mom doesn't have enough milk and is hungry, or the milk isn't good enough.
In some cases, problems with breast milk really are responsible for crying. Food allergies could lead to such a reaction, for instance. Jumping to the conclusion that formula will fix everything is not a good idea, though. More than one of my friends switched to formula only to discover their baby still cried all the time. Then, the ped would suggest a different formula. Before you fall in this trap, remember that some babies "simply" cry a lot (colic).
Moms who are going crazy from all the crying can, of course, try formula if that is what they really want, but they should be aware that it may not help. Babies who cry lots and lots are intense and can really take a toll on their parents' mental health, because of the worries, sleep deprivation, and just listening to the sound of crying. If you're currently in that boat, big hugs to you.