Article Written by Trish Njogu
He was sucking his fingers profusely with a level of vigor and hunger I had never seen before! It was like sucking on his finger was the difference between life and death! And when he wasn’t sucking his finger, he was shrieking at what I am sure was at least 12 decibels of raw frustration. It’s 1am and the most of the maternity ward sounds deathly quiet with the exception of this one small little human crying bloody murder! I was panicking! My thoughts were, this little human might just start a baby revolution that’s going to lead to every baby in the ward waking up and following suit. I could already see the death stares that were yet to come from my fellow mummy soldiers who probably were going through a combination of physical, mental and emotional turmoil like I was. After successfully waking up the mum and baby next to me, it was such a relief when the nurse finally came to my rescue. “There’s no milk coming out of the breast.…” That’s all I could say. I was exhausted, I was in pain, I was scared but most of all, I felt defeated.
Its breastfeeding week and we would like to send our kudos to all those mama’s out there who have taken the decision to breast feed their babies! Above all things, I think most of us all agree that indeed, breast is best when it comes to the overall nutrition of your child. The breastfeeding journey is unique to every woman! No two stories are often the same. What I do know for sure though, is I was nowhere near ready for the journey that was to come. Here are my top “need to knows” for preparing or improving your breastfeeding journey.
1) Every breastfeeding journey is different
I remember watching my mum express milk into a jug every morning, every afternoon and every evening for my baby sister. It was like watching a milk producing machine in an assembly line. The woman would squeeze her breasts and milk would come squirting out in huge volumes and at great speed. We even had a nickname for her, based on her milk producing capabilities! No…..it’s a secret! Knowing what I know about her breastfeeding journey, and basing on the fact that I resemble her in the most uncomfortable manner, I assumed that my breastfeeding journey would be the same as hers. I was wrong, so wrong. My journey was a challenging one. With that said, it makes no sense to compare your breastfeeding journey with someone else. Our bodies, babies and journeys are unique and should not, and must not, be compared.
2) Breastfeeding comes naturally
I think this is a myth that needs to be debunked. So I remember being told that breastfeeding comes naturally and that once the baby comes, I would know instantaneously what to do. The problem with spurting out such information is that it can be easily misconstrued. Breastfeeding for me was a learning curve. I remember sitting in the Neo-natal unit in a row with other new mothers, and we were being taught how to hold our breasts and how to express milk. It was a learning curve I had no idea I needed to go through for something that comes “naturally”. It was only with my second child that I took the very serious steps of seeing breastfeeding specialist that I realized that there is a whole learning curve involving latching, positioning, diet, timing and a whole bunch of other things involved, to have a successful breastfeeding journey.
3) Diet matters!
It’s possible during your pregnancy, that morning sickness and nausea had you refraining from particular foods. But now you have given birth, so your body should bounce back right? Well, not quite. It takes some time before you are able to start eating and drinking certain foods. Thankfully, nausea and morning sickness were not a part of my pregnancy journey but I did have very specific cravings. Once the baby comes, it’s almost expected that a whole new menu is proposed, for the sake of helping you produce more breast milk or as part of your healing journey. After eating copious amounts of nuts, porridge and liquids of all sorts, I was advised to take Fenugreek to boost up my milk supply. I am sure Fenugreek works well for most women but for me, it had the baby refusing to drink my breast-milk. I believe it was the smell of it on my body and in the milk that repelled her. It took about 2 days and a trip to the pediatrician to get her back to drinking breast-milk.
4) Boobs matter!
So I was under the impression that a sizeable rack equates to industrial size milk producing capabilities…wrong! The size of the breasts does not determine whether or not your body will produce more or less milk. What size could determine though, is the need to be extra careful when you have large breasts, in the sense that the baby could have challenges breathing if both nose and mouth are covered by the breast. What is very important however, is the shape and size of your nipple. Having a flat nipple I came to find out, meant that a few technicalities had to be taken care of before the baby could feed. In the beginning, that meant using a cut out syringe to pull the nipple out, then getting the baby to latch on before it went flat again. Believe me when I say, those first few times, it was extremely painful!
5) Breastfeeding can only be done by the mother
Before you roll your eyes, at me stating the obvious, I was not prepared for that reality check. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how wonderful and supportive your partner may be, when it comes to nourishing the baby with breast milk, you are all on your own. Yes, he can go to work, a drive, a drink out with the boys and many other things, simply because he does not have boobs! If he is in right mind, he would rationalize and keep you company during the breastfeeding moments, but the reality is, you cannot swap places when it comes to this. The alternative of formula milk, is present but if your decision is to exclusively breastfeed, you would need to get on a schedule and plan ahead with creating a breast-milk bank.
6) Create a buddy system
Breastfeeding is a long marathon, with several ups and downs. I was very lucky in that I had a close friend who had her first child 10 days before my first baby. What that meant was, I had someone to chat to, share my ups and downs with, during the breastfeeding journey. Although she was almost 3,000 km away, we communicated constantly. We would praise each other on the hard work of expressing a whole 30ml of breast-milk.....Wow! We would chat at the oddest of hours and in great detail, and sometimes with pictures, the journey as a whole, and it helped keep both of us sane.
I think it is important for me to share that breastfeeding can be beautiful, fulfilling and enriching. It’s a beautiful bonding experience that has lasting effects. Is it for everyone? Maybe, or maybe not. Thankfully, posted below is a great video from one of our Tumi Wellness partners, Kelly Mataure, that shares more information on breast and or formula feeding! Make sure to check it out down below! If you are based in Nairobi, I would like to recommend Professor Grace Irimu who is a Pediatrician, and Child Health Specialist. Her organization has helped several women, including me, to master the breastfeeding journey.
Don't forget to check out the Breast feeding vs Formula Feeding video by Kelly Mataure