It is World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) again. It’s celebrated every 1st to 7th of August annually. As a mother, it’s a time I take stock of the many challenges I passed through to ensure my children were breastfed. My first daughter, who I almost breastfed for 2 years (which is the standard teaching :D) turned 16 years in May and graduated high school, a few months back. I cannot but be thankful for this milestone in her life even while I consider the impact of breastfeeding in her journey. She was never a sickly child, always a bundle of energy and joy. And we have always had a great bond which was a combination of the breastfeeding bond-building but also the fact that she was my constant companion in her first few years of life. I gave up work for those two years to exclusively breastfeed while looking for a job that would allow me bring my daughter to work J
With my second child, I realized that while in theory, the world liked the idea of women practicing exclusive breastfeeding, businesses were not willing to take the chance to employ one and give her an opportunity to breastfeed and bond with her baby. Therefore, I decided that if I couldn’t beat them, I would join them. And so, breastfeeding was for a short period and daycare was my saving grace. I went job hunting and threw myself into work. Mind you, I was not an absent or bad mum. No! I didn’t even have a house help so, my day was split between office and house work. But my second daughter was quite sickly and always pale as a child. Happy to report that she’s grown out of this and we have a great bond, but it was a source of concern at that time. I could never stop thinking that it was partly because I did not breastfeed her for long.
With these two experiences behind me, when I had my last child, I knew what I wanted and what I did not want. I wanted to work but I also wanted to breastfeed. Therefore, I made plans to do just that. First, I got help. I do not know why we think that we get a halo of sainthood when we over-stress ourselves trying to take on everything by ourselves. Nobody gives you an award. If anything, you will get called out for letting the ball drop on stuff. In addition, I got a driver and a breast milk pump J At work, I would retire to a private place to express breast milk and my driver would take it home for my house help to freeze. My son grew up really well-adjusted and today, I am amazed at the strapping young man developing before my eyes, and about to hit the magical teenage number this year 😀
Why do I go down memory lane to commemorate WBW annually? It’s because I see that a lot of women deprive themselves of the joys of breastfeeding because they don’t believe it’s cool, think they are overwhelmed, believe it’s not as healthy as formula feeding etc. As a doctor, I was taught that breastfeeding was the ultimate but personally, I have tried different scenarios and can speak to what works…and it tallies with what research findings supporting breastfeeding say 😀
So, as we celebrate WBW week this week, with the objectives of 1) informing people about the relationship breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security and poverty reduction and galvanizing action to advance this; 2) anchoring breastfeeding as the foundation of life and 3) engaging with individuals and organizations for greater impact, I share some key tips for mothers who wish to breastfeed even when working. It is difficult but possible. Here’s how!
First, get some help at home. Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking you’re lazy if you do that. You don’t owe any of them any explanation ;D Get a washing machine or someone to do the laundry. If you don’t want a live-in help, get a daily. But whatever you do, get help! You’ll be a lot happier. Trust me, I know!
As a working mum, you will have to express breast milk often. To express milk for your baby, first, you have to be committed to be hygienic because you don’t want to introduce germs into your baby, do you? Always scrub your hands with soap and water whether you are using the breast pump or your hands.
Having expressed the milk, when stored at room temperature, be sure to use up the milk within 6 hours.
When stored in the fridge,
• Ensure that the temperature in the refrigerator is below 5 degrees centigrade.
• Do not store on the door of the fridge. Please store on the shelf towards the back of the refrigerator where it’s cooler
• At this temperature, you can store milk for up to 5 days.
When stored in the ice compartment of the refrigerator, you can store milk up to 2 weeks
When stored in the deep freezer, you can store milk up to 6 months.
To thaw frozen milk, please put it in the fridge. When it’s thawed, you may feed your baby with it but if your baby prefers it warm, you can run some warm water over the bottle until it’s just right. Do not microwave it as this may create some hot spots in the bottle which may cause scalding of your baby.
Once thawed, please don’t re-freeze the milk as this might encourage the growth of micro-organisms.
Make sure that the container used for storing milk is sterilized to prevent any potential introduction of germs into the milk. Use small containers that hold just about the amount that your baby finishes per feed.
If you express a lot of milk, be sure to label the different containers and use the oldest pack first. Please stick with the duration of storage guideline we’ve given.
Now, it goes without saying that you should not store milk close to contaminants like meat, fish or even strong smelling foods like onions 😀 You don’t want your baby’s milk smelling fishy 😀
Have a great evening y’all and encourage someone today to start or continue breastfeeding 😀