“I was shocked my confinement lady said this about breastmilk!”
Confinement nannies may overwhelm new mums with old wives' tales about baby's diet, so how do we decide?
Post-pregnancy, the confinement period seems like a month of new beginnings and uncertainties. Besides growing into my role as a new mother, and learning to care for my newborn, we picked up new knowledge from our confinement nanny too.
Previously, I had reached out to health experts to address common confinement myths and beliefs about confinement food and practices for post-partum mums. This time, we address some of the old wives’ tales that revolved around our babies’ diet – breastmilk and formula milk. Myths or facts from our confinement ladies? Let’s see!
2 confinement nannies; 2 schools of thought
We had two different confinement nannies – our first confinement lady was in the formula camp; while our second confinement lady (surprise surprise!) was all for breastfeeding, and had even attended breastfeeding courses conducted by Lactation Consultants at ParentCraft Centre in Mount Alvernia. You can probably imagine that I was in total relief to have my second confinement nanny! I’ve often wondered what it would have been like if we had met her when we had our firstborn – perhaps my breastfeeding journey could have been off to a better start. But things happen for a reason, and we simply accept and learn from it 🙂
So with two confinement nannies who offered their knowledge, advice and fair share of old wives’ tales, here are some myths and beliefs that you may find familiar too! Nodding away in agreement, or shocked to hear them? Let me know if you had a similar experience!
#1: Breastmilk is not filling enough for your baby
This is probably the most often heard statement by confinement nannies. It’s not just me, but friends who’ve had engaged help during their post-partum often struggle because their nannies would comment that their babies cry “a lot”, or didn’t sleep as much as other newborns that the confinement lady had cared for. The frequent wakings at night meant that the nanny’s rest would be disrupted (just like the breastfeeding mum!).
Myth or fact? According to Dr. Sears, there are reasons why breastmilk doesn’t seem to be filling enough for baby:
“Cow’s milk is mostly casein protein, which forms a rubbery, hard-to-digest curd in babies’ tummies. Human milk has more whey than curd, and the curds that are formed are softer and more quickly digested. ” This means breastmilk is easier to digest by a newborn’s immature digestive system, and breastmilk is broken down more easily than infant formula milk powder.
In addition, “the fat in human milk comes with an enzyme, lipase, that breaks the fat down into smaller globules so this important nutrient can be better absorbed into the bloodstream.” Fats are essential source of energy for newborns, and is required for healthy development too. In fact, all nutrients from breastmilk are better absorbed by baby, which means the little one gets all that goodness! Hooray!
So, going by scientific research and evidence, this myth about breastmilk is not true!
#2: Formula milk is more filling for baby; you need to top up baby’s feed with milk powder so she won’t be hungry
Well, this came from my first confinement nanny, who scared us with a horrific story on Day 3 with our newborn.
My breastfeeding journey with Vera got off on a bumpy start because of engorgement, and my milk just wouldn’t flow initially. My confidence dipped, and we were topping up her feed with formula milk after every nursing session. Guess what? To the point she was drinking 5oz (150ml) of infant formula milk before she turned one month old!
Myth or fact? Formula milk seems to be the go-to for keeping babies fuller, for reasons only because breastmilk doesn’t seem to fill baby up enough. Breastmilk’s easily digestible nature seems to offer the wrong impression. Referencing Point #1 above, because breastmilk is better digested and absorbed by our growing babies, the need to feed them more frequently seems to arise because their tummy is now “empty”, or because baby is crying (that leads me to Point #3 below!). By topping up each feed with infant formula may lead to overfeeding. Also, by offering baby with formula milk powder via bottle feeding, there was a risk of nipple confusion, or baby preferring to drink from the bottle instead of the breast. But hey, making sure baby is fed is more crucial!
#3: Baby is crying because she’s hungry
Somehow, every cry was linked to hunger. Worse, my first confinement nanny would simply say to newborn Vera, “Oh, why are you crying? Are you hungry again? Mummy’s milk wasn’t enough?” It was really discouraging to be “blamed”. Newborns are known to eat, feed, bathe, poop, sleep, repeat – cries are their way of telling us something, but does not always means she’s hungry.
In fact, I remember trying to differentiate baby Vera’s cries, and during a particular crying session, I confidently told the nanny to check her diapers because her cries sounded different. She insisted that our little one was hungry, but gingerly peeped into her diaper and TA-DAH! POOP surprise!
Myth or fact? Decode the cries and watch baby’s cues! Babies cry to communicate, so listening to differentiate those sounds could help better understand what baby was telling us. Observe your baby to learn your child’s hunger cues. He or she may be rooting, sucking his lips or fingers, before crying, which usually means you’ve got a hungry + angry baby now.
#4: Give her infant formula milk so she can sleep better and longer at night
That was another point on formula milk powder by our first confinement nanny, all in a bid to help baby sleep better. So that’s what we tried with Vera! Since we were already topping up her feeds in the day with formula milk, her last bottle at night was deemed the ‘knock-out feed’. Gave her the full bottle at bedtime, and when she woke during the night, formula milk was offered. That meant I had to wake to pump in the middle of the night, since I didn’t get to latch her.
After the first week or so, the fatigue was getting to me and I wasn’t getting much milk out with the breast pump. Hopes were dampened, so those nightly milk pumping sessions were dragged longer, until I ignored my leaking boobs. Guess all these further dented our breastfeeding journey since it’s all about demand and supply, right?
Myth or fact? Tried and tested, but offering formula milk at night didn’t work for baby Vera. I’ve heard it works for other parents though – did it work for you?
#5: Avoid ginger in confinement meals if baby has jaundice
Both confinement nannies said this to me! Both Vera and Leroy had mild jaundice, and thankfully not breastmilk jaundice. Even if babies are diagnosed with breastmilk jaundice, medical experts advice that breastfeeding should continue unless otherwise advised.
Myth or fact? So, I checked with my gynaecologist, Dr Eunice Chua and TCM specialist, Physician Lim Sor San; both said ginger and jaundice did not have a direct correlation. You may read their professional responses here.
At the end of the day, it’s about choosing to believe in science or traditional beliefs, or striking a balance between both. Choosing to offer breastmilk or formula is ultimately up to mums and dads, and possibly medical advice. If you’re about to start confinement, embrace it with a positive mind and remember to get as much rest as you can!
For expert advice on baby nutrition and how to breastfeed successfully, visit www.healthhub.sg/earlynutrition for more information.
Did your confinement lady share any bizarre myths about breastmilk or infant formula? Do share them too!