#WorldBreastfeedingWeek is over… But This Series Isn’t! More Breastfeeding Myths Explored (Part 3)

I know, I know. The week is over – but apparently it’s also National Breastfeeding Month?! So I have another post to cover a few more questions and myths… (and guess what – there will be a part 4!)

Click for Part 1 and Part 2.

*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*

Does my breastfed baby need to take a Vitamin D supplement?

59.8% of 87 voters said yes, they do. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics do recommend that babies who are breastfed exclusively (or even partially) receive 400 IU of vitamin D supplementation daily.

But my baby goes outside?? Why does it need Vitamin D? Well if you live in North America, chances are that you and your baby are not receiving quite enough sunlight or Vitamin D. Other factors such as the type of area you live in (rural vs a city where sunlight is often blocked out by buildings or pollution) also impact the amount of sun you receive on a daily basis. Not to mention, in the early days (especially right now during a pandemic) you probably aren’t going outside as much (or for as long) as would be ideal for vitamin D generation – this could be as a result of the season/weather or cultural practices, or just preference (or, I don’t know, maybe a pandemic!).

Also, if you have more melanin in your skin, then you need even more sun exposure to meet your needs for vitamin D. This can be hard to achieve!

Why is Vitamin D so important?

Without it, your body can’t properly absorb calcium from food – so if you don’t have Vitamin D, your body turns to calcium stores (your bones) for what it needs. In children, this can cause an issue called rickets which is essentially, weakened bones. This can cause a host of problems including those with child development and growth. Fracture risk is also increased of course – in adults and children.

But doesn’t my baby get vitamin D from me?

Ideally, yes – if you are breastfeeding baby should be getting some part of their vitamin D requirement from your breastmilk, assuming that you are receiving the amount you need. They still need additional vitamin D from sunlight though… or in many if not most cases, supplementation.

A study from 2019 compared maternal supplementation with vitamin D to infant supplementation and found that, under artificial conditions (aka controlled, in a study-setting), mom or baby supplementation with vitamin D at the appropriate doses were about equally effective.

So it appears that if mom is supplementing baby seems to do just as well, as this study showed similar results to previous ones on the subject.

That being said, the AAP still recommends baby supplementation at this time, and it is something that should be discussed with your provider to make sure you’re making the best and safest choice for you & your baby.

Can I work out while breastfeeding? I heard it can make my milk taste bad to baby.

92.8% of 83 voters said false – exercise/sweating does not make your milk taste bad. Research supports the idea that exercise doesn’t appear to make your milk unpalatable to baby.

There is an older study this myth might be based off of, from 1992 – claiming that after very strenuous exercise, babies refused their mothers milk. However it’s important to note that, as the Kellymom website points out, the milk was not given to them by breast but by dropper. This could explain why babies would refuse it.

Lactic acid does build up while you exercise intensely, but it doesn’t seem to have any detrimental effects on baby’s eating habits or enjoyment of the milk (or on their growth, or your milk supply).

Most postpartum mothers who are breastfeeding are not exercising at 100% capacity anyways. If you are and you notice issues you can always wait a bit to feed baby, or give a bottle of pumped milk – or look for other causes of feeding issues such as baby being distracted. Any major issues with feeding should be addressed with your provider.

I think I might have COVID-19 or another illness – can I still breastfeed my baby?

86.3% of 95 voters said you can still breastfeed while sick. Unless advised otherwise by your physician/provider, continue to breastfeed!

If you have a cold, influenza, or COVID-19, you can continue to breastfeed your baby. You are helping to provide your baby with antibodies by continuing to breastfeed during your illness, which helps to provide them with protection.

I spoke specifically about COVID-19 in my Q&A on it here, but the recommendation for most respiratory illnesses are similar. Hand washing and avoiding coughing/sneezing near your baby are important – with COVID you would wear a mask and this isn’t a bad idea with any respiratory illness.

If you aren’t well enough to breastfeed directly (or you don’t feel you can do so safely), you can also pump and feed that way so your baby still gets the benefits. The same precautions should be taken with hand washing if you are pumping (as always!).

Are there any illnesses I can’t breastfeed with?

Talk to your provider regarding your specific situation – in some cases, a medication you are taking may require you to avoid breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is also contraindicated with active TB and HIV.

With most viral illnesses (including “stomach bugs”), you can continue to feed your baby as normal, taking the precautions and following the recommendations of your provider.

Is nipple confusion a real issue?

53.6% of 84 voters said it is not a real issue with pacifiers or bottles. It is sort of hard to say…

So nipple confusion is when baby is breastfed but becomes fussy at the breast as a result of using either/both a pacifier and a bottle.

A review from 2015 found that this phenomena seems to be mostly associated with bottle use and not pacifier use. However, they cannot be sure whether the fussiness is truly as a result of bottle use or not – just that there is an association (hence my italics earlier).

Many sources still stand by the idea that it is something that can happen – however again, as there is no way of being sure of the cause at the moment, there isn’t really a true answer to this question yet. It definitely, from what I have seen in the research, has a stronger association with bottle feeding than pacifier use. This likely has to do with the difference in the sucking technique at a breast vs. at an artificial nipple of a bottle.

Many people worry about the use of a pacifier with breastfeeding however pacifier use can be beneficial in many situationsespecially for premature babies and low birth weight. Their use is also associated with a reduced risk for SIDS.

There are also some risks to pacifier use too – increased ear infections, oral yeast infections, and potentially weaning earlier (though this has been debated as well in older studies – stopping breastfeeding may be more a result of other issues and be associated with pacifier use in its place) once established on a solid food diet. If you want to read more, this is a great source for info on all the possible issues that have been said to be related to pacifier use, as well as a discussion of the potential benefits.

If your baby is having trouble latching or sucking at the breast, then seeing your provider or a board certified lactation consultant may be helpful – there could be other issues going on that need to be addressed.

Why is my baby cluster feeding? Am I not producing enough and baby is telling me they need more milk by constantly going to the breast?

Cluster feeding is an expected newborn behaviour, usually occurring in the evenings during the “witching hour” if you will, and often having to do with baby filling up to prepare for a potentially longer sleep period. It can also coincide with growth spurts and other developmental changes, or soothing.

Frequent feedings doesn’t mean baby needs more food or that you need to supplement – they may just need to nurse more. Your body will respond to the feedings and increase supply to meet demands.

If you are concerned baby is not getting enough to eat, consult your provider. Cluster feeding is not itself a sign of not getting enough though. It’s a tough time for mama – but it’s not a bad thing!

Thanks for reading – stay tuned for part 4 of this series!

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