Breastfeeding Myths In Africa Exposed And Debunked
Africa is the home of myths, especially when it concerns giving baby advice to new mums. Many myths and stories about breastfeeding have been passed down through family and friends. Although people usually mean well, not all of it is based on fact. Some of the advice is inaccurate or out-of-date. While breastfeeding rates around the world and Nigeria in particular continue to rise, there’s still a lot that people don’t know about the topic. The fact is that breastfeeding is a healthy way to feed your baby. The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and it should also be an educated one. In this article we will debunk some of the common African breastfeeding myths you may have heard.
Breastfeeding Myths Versus Breastfeeding Facts
Myth 1: Breastfeeding will make your breasts sag.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is pregnancy, not breastfeeding that stretches the ligaments of your breasts. So the more pregnancies you have, the higher the chances of saggy breasts. In the end, your breasts will succumb to age and gravity. However, it is a good idea to support your full breasts with a good bra.
Myth 2: If your breasts are too small, you can’t breastfeed.
The size or shape of a woman’s breasts do not affect her ability to breastfeed. This includes women with large areolas, small or flat nipples, and even women who have had breast surgery. If you have had a breast reduction however, it is possible that some of your milk ducts have been removed and this might affect your ability to breastfeed.
Myth 3: If your breasts are too large or you’re plus size, you can’t breastfeed.
Some people believe that women with big breasts have difficulty lactating. That’s another African breastfeeding myth that belongs in the trash can. As we established above, shape and size have nothing to do with lactation.
Myth 4: Sexual Intercourse contaminates breast milk and leads to baby’s death.
Experts have dismissed this claim as untrue as there is no evidence to support it. It has however been proven that exclusive breastfeeding can act as a natural contraceptive, especially in the early days after birth. It is up to you to decide when to begin having intercourse after giving birth, but breastfeeding can help stop another pregnancy, even as it shrinks your uterus back to size.
Myth 5: Colostrum kills babies
It is believed that colostrum is part of the after birth waste, like the placenta. And that it is bad for the baby’s health, because it is yellow. In actual fact, colostrum is the healthiest, most nutritious part of breast milk. It is the yellowish fluid that comes out of the breasts in the first days after delivery.
Myth 6: A woman is bewitched if she doesn’t immediately begin to lactate after delivery.
Several factors can affect engorgement and lactation, resulting in delayed release of breast milk. Also, some women don’t even lactate at all! Women who deliver their babies by Caesarean Section find that their milk doesn’t immediately come in. It will take one or two days for them to begin lactating. It certainly doesn’t require the conjuring of spirits to help a woman begin to lactate.
Myth 7: A woman must not breastfeed while she is angry or in a bad mood.
Some Africans believe that when a woman is upset she must suspend breastfeeding until she is in a better mood, as she will be transferring the bad temper to the child. But stress, agitation and anxiety can cause a decrease in the “let-down” reflex, which can cause a decrease in availability of milk, but it does not affect the quality of the milk. Mothers are therefore advised to get counselling on how to avoid these conditions so that milk availability is not affected.
Myth 8: Adultery contaminates breast milk and could spell death for the baby
Some people believe that infidelity and multiple sex partners contaminates breast milk and alters the quality of the milk. They say that this could lead to the death of the baby. This is not the case. The fact is that infidelity and keeping multiple sex partners puts the mother at risk of sexually transmitted diseases. This is what she may transfer to the baby, and it may eventually lead to its death.
With the advent of civilization and the internet, more and more African women are embracing breastfeeding as the best option for nourishing their babies. While we know that these myths will not immediately disappear, let’s all do the best we can to share proven facts about breastfeeding with all the new mums we encounter. In no time, these myths will only be found in the archives of our history.