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All you need to know about ancestral and modern breastfeeding practices

  • Dt. Smitha Rao | Updated: Nov. 22, 2020, 10:48 a.m.

A newborn’s health is the prime concern for the Parents, breast milk being the essential component for the well-being and growth of the child. In this article we wade through some myths and facts associated with the practice of Breastfeeding.


Facts and Myths Associated with BreastFeeding practices:

• Colostrum (first milk after delivery) is toxic and should be discarded.

Fact: Colostrum are rich in immunoglobulin’s (Ig A, Ig G) which builds strong immune system in babies.
Colostrum has cathartic effect in that it promotes the excretion of excess volition from the new borns and decreases the chances of jaundice.
It is rich in essential vitamins like A, D, K and antibodies which helps new born to combat infections. Therefore colostrum should be fed to the babies.

• Drinking more water dilutes the breast milk.

Fact: Drinking good amount of fluids /water will aid in good digestion, prevents constipation, aids in weight loss, reduces stress levels. As lactating women are prone to have constipation, indigestion and stress due to lack of sleep.

• Lactating women should not consume citrus rich fruits like lime, orange, Amla as it curdles the breast milk.

Fact: Citrus rich fruits are rich in Vitamin C and should be consumed by a lactating women as it helps to build her and babies immunity, helps lactating women to recover from postpartum (post-delivery) stress, aids in good digestion and weight loss. Helps combat postpartum depression.

• Applying oil to breast will increase milk production.

Fact: Massaging the breast promotes in milk production. But after the oil massage, the surface should be washed thoroughly, as babies need mother's body odor to latch, in ancient time this was one of the reason why babies had latching problem.

• Nipples should be washed or wiped each time before feeding the baby.

Fact: Nipples surface contains certain good bacteria’s which is needed for the baby to develop immunity, those bacteria’s are good for the gut and helps in good digestion and softer stools in baby.

Wiping or washing nipples makes the area dry and removes all natural protective oils. No soap or oils to be used around the nipple.

Just rubbing of hind milk (milk that comes at the end of breast feeding, breast milk which are rich in fats which makes baby’s stomach full.), that can be applied to clean or prevents sourness of nipples as it keeps the nipple moist and hydrated.

• New borns should be fed with honey.

Fact: New borns should be exclusively breast fed for six months, honey does harm than do any benefit to the baby. As it causes infection and causes condition called Botulism (poisoning cost by toxins produced by clostridium botulinum bacteria) which are highly present in uncooked foods and honey has a good culture for clostridium botulinum bacteria to develop. Botulism causes difficulty in swallowing, muscular dystrophy, facial weakness and paralysis.

• Lactating women should not breast feed her baby if she is feverish or cold or cough.

Fact: even if the mother has caught flu or any infection it is unlikely to pass the infection through breast feed in fact it will pass antibodies to the baby and help baby to fight infection. Hence breast feeding should not be stopped during any flu or infection, only in certain conditions like TB(Tuberculosis), HIV(Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus), T-Cell Lymphotrophy virus which can be transferred through breast milk to baby and can be fatal to the baby hence only in such cases breast feeding should be stopped.

• Amount of milk secretion in lactating women depends on the size of breasts.

Fact: Milk production highly depends on demand of milk from the baby, sucking and latching by the baby, rather than the size of the breast. As the baby latches and sucks at the breast increases the secretion of oxytocin and prolactin in the mother, the pituitary glands receives the signals and helps to produce milk. Hence increases secretion of milk. Milk production is dependent on the sensory glands in the breast, which indeed is same in all breasts. Sizes are only the fat tissues and connective tissues. Hence no relation to size of breasts and milk production.

• Lactating women should not consume spicy food.

Fact: Lactating women should consume balanced food with less restriction on food. The food which is ingested would be well digested and used to make Breast milk, which might not contain the spices and will not alter the taste of breast milk.

• Consumption of turmeric water turns breast milk yellow.

Fact: Turmeric contains bio active compounds with powerful medicinal properties. These compounds are called as curcuminoids out of which most important is Curcumin. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and rich in anti-oxidant. Studies show that Curcumin has incredible benefits against Depression. Curcumin boosts brain Neuro- transmitters serotonin and dopamine. Turmeric is rich in anti-oxidant hence improves the immunity which helps to fight infections.

Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory effects which helps reducing pain in Lactating Women after delivery. It relieves Arthritis hence reduces Joint pain. Food which Lactating Women eats will be digested before Breast Milk is produced. Drinking water doesn’t alter the Breast Milk color or taste. Lactating Women should consume Turmeric water once a day and get all the benefits from Turmeric.

• Betel leaves to be ingested by the Lactating women.

Fact:Betel leaves are rich in Calcium and when had with Areca nut (Addike) after food helps in digestion and relieves constipation. It also helps in reducing body fat and increases metabolic rate.
It also reduces inflammation caused by cold or cough, it aids to clear congestion in the chest. The regular use of the Betel leaves dilates the phlegm and eases in breathing.
The vital vitamins and minerals present in Betel leaves when applied around the stomach, it aids in reduction of Stretch marks.

The author is a professional Dietitian at Dietonomics, Bengaluru and an evident expert in her field.

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