Do you ever wonder about some of the things that are considered common knowledge about breastmilk? Here at Pumpables we’ve debunked 9 of the most common myths about breast milk.
#1 Breastmilk should not be shaken
For years it was believed that shaking breast milk would break down the protein molecules of the milk thus diminishing the nutritive value of the milk. The biggest thing to note about this statement is that it isn’t actually backed by scientific evidence. Though shaking it may change the physical appearance and qualities of the milk, it doesn’t impact the nutrition. It is also worth noting that you’d have to apply a considerable amount of force when shaking the milk to break the protein molecules: imagine the effort it takes to hand whip heavy cream!
#2 If baby doesn’t finish the bottle, leftover breastmilk needs to be thrown away
Wrong! If bub didn’t finish that bottle, no need to worry – fresh breastmilk after feeding can safely be kept at room temperature up to 2 hours, in a cooler bag with an ice pack for up to 4 hours, and in the back of the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Previously frozen breastmilk can spoil more quickly after feeding than fresh breast milk, but it can safely be kept at room temperature for up to 1 hour, in a cooler bag with an ice pack for up to 2 hours, and in the back of the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. However, if breastmilk has been heated, it will need to be used right away at the next feeding or discarded. Heating breastmilk changes the physical qualities of the milk, making it more prone to contamination (especially as bacteria from baby’s mouth can transfer to it from the teat). Heated milk needs to be used right away or at the next feed. For any type of previously-fed milk, we recommend changing out the teats between feeding. Click here for more information on breastmilk storage
#3 Breast pump accessories need to be sterilised after each use
There’s a huge range of different opinions on this one, and you should always be guided by your care provider. If you have a preterm baby or there are health issues, then it’s likely you’ll be asked to sterilise breast pump parts each time they’re used.
If you have an older, healthy baby then it’s okay to sterilise once a day. In fact, sterilising very frequently can cause them to wear down, and you will lose suction when using your pump.
Unless your care provider has given alternative instructions (such as if you have a preterm bub) you don’t need to sterilise all that often.
Always sterilise parts before first use and wash in warm soapy water after every use and air dry. If you are pumping very frequently, you can keep parts in a zip lock bag in the fridge before been use. Most parts can go on the top shelf of the dishwasher, except valves.
#4 Breastmilk can only be stored for 3 days in the refrigerator
Although fresh milk is always ideal, you do not need to toss or freeze the milk after 3 days in the refrigerator. Freshly expressed milk can actually safely be stored for up to 8 days in the refrigerator. Unless your care provider has given alternative instructions (for example if you have a NICU babe) you can follow these milk storage guidelines to safely keep expressed breast milk.
#5 Babies ‘don’t need’ breastmilk after x months
It’s not uncommon to think that when a child starts solid foods, it’s time to wean. However, that practice has never been supported by scientific research. Breastmilk continues to be beneficial through toddlerhood and beyond. Studies have shown that breastmilk produced for toddlers is higher in protein and fat to suit their more active lifestyles compared to breastmilk produced for infants. In fact, breastfeeding past toddlerhood is the biological norm, and can be observed in some non-industrialized human societies. Some scientists believe it is the reason children only begin losing their milk teeth at around age 6. It wasn’t until the 1800s that weaning before 12 months of age was recommended. The World Health Organization recommends feeding breastmilk through age 2 and beyond.
#6 The amount of breastmilk you pump reflects your milk supply
Given that milk collection bottles have measurement lines on them, it’s easy to see a variation in the amount of milk expressed while pumping. Many mums see such variation and worry that their supply is diminishing. This is not true for many reasons: First of all, if you’re used to breastfeeding, you may find a pump to be much less efficient than bub. Many mums find they need to pump much longer than a breastfeeding session to get enough milk for a bottle feeding. Secondly, it is very common for mums to experience an oversupply during the early weeks of breastfeeding (the first 10-12 weeks). Many women may be able to pump more per session during those early days, and then see a decrease in output around this time and correlate that with a drop in supply. This change is totally normal as the body begins to regulate how much milk is produced. Third, when babies experience growth spurts they typically increase their milk intake which can correlate to a decrease in expression output when pumping after feeding. Bear in mind that these growth spurts are temporary and last only a couple days and that the increased demand actually bolsters an increase in supply over the following days. Lastly, as your milk regulates, it’s not uncommon for the shape and size of the nipple to change from what it was in the beginning; this may mean your pump becomes less efficient as the breastshield size you need may have changed. Pump parts in need of replacement can manifest as a decrease in expressed milk output too, so make sure that you continue to change the parts regularly.
#7 You can completely empty a breast
Actually, it’s a common misconception that the breast can be completely emptied as people often talk about the effectiveness of a pump as correlating to how well it empties the breast. You are actually constantly producing milk while you’re lactating, and even more so when you are pumping or breastfeeding. The act of removing milk from the breast signals the body to produce more milk. That’s why it’s important that your pump efficiently removes milk, – so your body knows to produce more, thus keeping supply up. If you’re an exclusive pumper, make sure you pump until letdowns produce just a few drops, and continue pumping 5 minutes beyond that. Your breast will feel empty – but, it’s never truly completely empty; even if your breasts feel empty, there is still some delicious fatty hindmilk for bub!
#8 Pumping makes your boobs sag
No, pumping does not make your boobs sag; and neither does direct latch breastfeeding. Many women think that choosing to pump will cause breast ptosis (aka saggy boobs) and that direct latch breastfeeding prevents this (or vise versa!) but this is simply not the case. In fact, a 2008 study concluded that the risk of breast ptosis increases with each pregnancy, but has no correlation to breastfeeding. So, no matter how you choose to feed your baby, you are likely to experience changes in shape (sorry).
#9 Breastmilk is only for drinking
Did you forget about a bottle of milk in the back of the fridge or a bag of frozen milk in the freezer? That can be quite discouraging, but worry not – breastmilk can be used for so much more than just drinking! Save some in the freezer to rub on topical wounds and rashes, or put some in the bath with baby. Some mums have made soaps and lotions using breastmilk. There are even services that make jewelry and other mementos using breastmilk. If you need ideas, feel free to contact us for help. The possibilities are endless!
What are some of the myths about breast milk you have encountered? Have something you want us to investigate?