Dear all, this week, August 1 to 7, the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week. This year, the theme is, “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.” This theme reminds me a lot of what I went through trying to find a hospital with a crèche where I could work and breastfeed my baby comfortably at work. That was not to be! Want to know all about it? Read below:
A few years ago when I was pregnant for my first child, I made plans…loads of them. How great a mother I was going to be, I would make packed lunches, make her hair, teach her, school her, take her to work with me, (so I could exclusively breast feed), take her to school by myself (when it was that time), pick her up too, do her laundry by myself etc. I wanted to be super mum. All those statistics of mothers who left their children etc., was never going to be me or my child.
And so, I birthed this child. And, I set about doing all the things I had planned to do with a vengeance! I had no help…I insisted on doing everything myself, (never mind that by the end of the day I was frazzled, at my wits end and willing to bite people’s ears off, if they so much as grazed past me, how much more touch a raw nerve!) I also started looking for that hospital where I would work with my baby. I had just finished med school, house job and NYSC at that time, and so my head was brimming with all those ideas of bonding with my baby by breast feeding and also ensuring I was giving her immune system a great boost for life…and all those wonderful reasons we were given for breast feeding. In fact, as I was leaving med school, I was convinced that breast feeding was cool and oh so, fashionable! But the whole world conspired against me and all those noble ideals I had. I couldn’t find any hospital that felt I was truly serious about working and discussing the concept of bringing my baby in and having a crèche where I could take off, now and again to breast feed and bond :D. In fact, none of those hospitals had crèches for their nursing-mother employees! Oh! Years later, I can imagine them bursting into gales of laughter anytime I left any of those interviews. ‘Can you imagine? She wants to work…with a baby?!’ ‘Is she for real?!’
And so started my reluctant stay-at-home period! It was to be for about 2 years. By this time, I had finally ‘wised’ up and figured that the society wanted mothers to breast feed their children, bond with them and reduce crime rates etc., but no one was willing to make the sacrifice to make that happen. And so, I made plans to put my daughter in school only to realise I was pregnant again. With my second daughter, breast feeding was perfunctory as I spent the period of pregnancy and immediately after birth plotting my return to the work place.
Having tried exclusive breast feeding and partial breast feeding, the difference was clear. Where my first daughter was a pillar of health during childhood, my second baby…though not sickly, always looked pale, picked up every virus flying around in the air and wasn’t the easiest child to adapt to new diets etc.
Having experienced both extremes and becoming convinced about what made sense for me as a mother, I determined that with my next baby, I was going to work, (the housewife thing was not working for me. I was plain miserable! I doff my hat to all housewives! You’re all amazing women and you rock!) and I was going to breast feed. And guess what? That was exactly what I did! I would breast feed at home and express regularly to freeze for the periods I was away at work. It wasn’t easy but it was certainly worth it! So is it possible for a working mother? It is.
I smile when I hear working mothers say, ‘but I work, how can I do that?’ You can, but it requires some sacrifice…actually lots of sacrifice.
Breast milk, beyond being cheap, temperature regulated and readily available 😀 is formulated with everything your baby needs for each stage of his growth. It’s chock full of immunoglobulins (which makes them resistant to illnesses , vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and oils. So, it is indeed a complete meal! It also helps the womb to return to normal size after childbirth.
So ladies, let’s give our children the right start. It is still fashionable to breast feed. (And even if not, who cares about what the fashion radar is saying on that, anyways?! Or better still, let’s start the fad!)
Employers please encourage this practice that is useful to society as a whole…crèches aren’t such a bad idea when you think about the fact that you would now have dedicated female employees working for you. Family-friendly policies – such as paid parental leave (including paternity leave) – encourage breastfeeding and help parents bond with their children. Breastfeeding breaks provide safe and private spaces for nursing mothers at work to express and store breastmilk. These policies have been shown to increase employee retention, job satisfaction, and result in fewer absences.
PS: Ladies get some help at home. You know that ‘super mum’ thing I was trying to do? It just exhausts you and you can’t get it all done. 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!
Here’s to a healthier, happier…and less stressed out you!