Yeah, so October was the Pink month – the breast cancer awareness month. Off course, a month that also brought up all ‘other’ conversations about the breast and in many different ways.
For me, it was an exceptional month, as I managed to complete a major milestone in the life of my newborn – the six months exclusive breastfeeding. Oh my God! Such an endearing course – the sleepless nights; keeping wake in the midnight hour to express milk; very little production on some days; the uncertainty of whether the expressed milk will suffice in my absence, you name it.
Today, I feel like a kid with a new toy, having achieved such a milestone. As a friend usually says in jest: “You deserve to eat one full egg when you achieve significant milestones” and I will do exactly that.
The Exclusive Breastfeeding Chorus
Exclusive breastfeeding here; exclusive breastfeeding there – at the ante-natal classes, the pregnancy school, the post-natal check ups, on radio, etc – the midwives will harp on and on the benefits for the baby and the mother. And yes, there is abundant literature to corroborate its usefulness as in the infograph below. Infact, I remember in one of my pregnancy classes, we were actually taught an exclusive breastfeeding song. It almost became a rhyme. Ha!
But how come the emphasis is so much on the benefits and so little on the stress, discomfort and extra hardwork that must come with it, especially for working/professional mums?
It appeared all easy and fine just being with baby at home – breastfeeding on and off demand. Then after enjoying maternity leave for three and half months, I resumed work. Ooops! Options? Yes as follows:
- Switching completely to formula milk so baby can have enough
- Expressing and storing the breast milk for baby while away
- Carrying baby along to work
Being convinced of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, I settled for option two. Initially, it was okay as I could express between 300ml and 400ml to make up for my absence (about 5 – 6 hours).
But at baby’s 4th month, it didn’t seem easy anymore expressing breast milk – Production on some days was very low. Other days, I just could not just get home early enough. There were actually days I would drive home like a James bond after receiving a call that the feed was finished. Anxiety set in, and then frustration too. I felt baby was not getting enough.
But why the stress? – I murmured to myself – why not just switch to formula milk afterall that won’t kill the baby; plus I’m a working mum and that’s understandable. The last time I checked, maternity leave is still three months; what you get in addition is your annual one-month leave making four and that’s all …
But the more I contemplated ending it, the guiltier I felt – this would mean I have let my baby down; I could not try harder to see all the benefits it comes with; And oh all the advice at the pregnancy school? The guilt was so much, I choose to continue the exclusive breastfeeding.
So what worked?
First, the advice from the medical professionals – I discussed with my midwife and a few doctor friends: Well, you have less than two months to go, why not just complete it to avoid mixed feeding? We encourage you to complete it unless it is absolutely impossible. Ha! Mixed feeding? But all feeding is feeding or?
Second, the experience sharing from fellow-women, and the hubby’s encouragement. Call it the woman magic, a number of my female friends willingly shared their experience and how they managed it: It is a good practice; the baby will hardly fall sick; try a little harder to complete it unless it is absolutely impossible; eat very well; stay hydrated and take lots of soup and water. I felt encouraged. And Hubby? Yeah, he promised me a special treat as soon as we achieved that milestone.
And before I forget, please tell Nestle-Ghana that their radio advert on exclusive breastfeeding was very helpful and motivating.
I got myself a special set of ammunition to help increase milk production and survive the battle:
- Groundout soup Palm nut soup.
- Vegetables and fruits. Mashed kenkey with milk.
- Milo drink or milk shake. Brukina fresh milk.
- Roasted maize and groundout Fresh Palm wine when available
For the remaining two months, these were my stock. I stayed awake the better part of the night both to put the baby to the breast and express for the morning. And like the manna that fell from heaven, I could produce just about enough milk for a day. I started a countdown chart at 35 days, looking forward to each day with optimism – 20 days more; 10, 5, 3, 2, 1… and huuurrrrraaaayyyyyyyyy I made it.
For now, I can only look forward to enjoying the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. But even before that I’m off to eat one full egg for completing such a milestone and enjoy my well-deserved hubby treat.
I will be glad to hear your experience too.