Saturday 6 August 2016

Making a case for exclusive breastfeeding.

Source :WHO
Breastfeeding is a norm in Nigeria, but exclusive breastfeeding is not. Babies below six months of age most times are given other foods or liquids. Exclusive breastfeeding; feeding an infant on breast milk alone, is the gold standard for babies below six months old as it not only contains all the nutritional needs of babies that age but also protects them from several types of diseases. It has repeatedly been described as the safest and healthiest option for feeding infants. Experts recommend it should start from the first hour of a baby's life as this not only gives the baby good supply of the nutrient-rich colostrum which safeguards infants from dying during the most vulnerable time of their life,  but also helps establish and increase the supply of the more mature breast milk.

Today, the evidence on the power of exclusive breastfeeding is stronger than ever. 
Many mothers choose to practice this form of infant feeding  but get discouraged at some point either by the opinions of family members or the advice of poorly trained health workers,or even by several myths surrounding exclusive breastfeeding

Breast milk is said to be a potent medicine for disease prevention that is tailored to fit the needs of a baby, it has been described as the perfect elixir of immunity for infants. Feeding a baby below six months on breast milk alone gives the baby a complete dosage of this potent medicine; this also keeps the baby safe from contaminants in food and water that can cause diarrhea. It also makes makes the baby less susceptible to ear infections, pneumonia and several other childhood illnesses. 

A recent document published by the World Health Organization titled "From the first hour of life: making the case for improved infant and young child feeding everywhere" described breast milk as 'the most personalized form of medicine that any of us will receive in our lifetime'; this is largely because antibodies are produced to combat specific infections a baby is exposed to- a mother's body writes a prescription for illnesses unique to her baby's needs and environment. Human milk apart from being an excellent source of nutrients for an infant also contains a variety of immune components such as antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds and specific immune cells. Feeding infants the recommended way gives the infant the recommended dosage of this highly personalized medicine.


Exclusive breastfeeding has been described as a high-impact, cost-effective solution for saving children's lives. As infants breastfeed, the immune composition of breast milk adjusts to the properties of their saliva. If the mother's body detects pathogens, it produces antibodies to fight them. There is the risk of contamination from non-breast milk feedings which can expose vulnerable newborns to life-threatening pathogens; besides they can take up valuable space in the newborn's stomach, leaving little room for complete breast milk . 

Exclusive breastfeeding guarantees infants a food source that is uniquely adapted to their needs while being safe, clean, healthy and accessible. According to the WHO document quoted above, feeding a baby below six months of age other things except breast milk makes the baby 2.8 times more likely to die than those who were exclusively  breastfed; exclusive breastfeeding can prevent 53% of hospital admissions for diarrhea and 27% of hospitalizations for lower respiratory infections each month. Research also suggests increases in a child's long-term heart capacity and shape in exclusively breastfed babies than those fed with infant formula. 

For a child six months and below, other foods are at best unnecessary and at worst life-threatening. Let us therefore join hands to promote this great infant feeding practice which has the potential to save countless lives.

Refuting some myths surrounding Exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria

Today, more than ever, evidence abound on the immense benefits of exclusively breastfeeding a baby
below six months old. Like many practices, there are also myths surrounding Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF) among which are;

Image result for exclusive breastfeeding
  1.  Exclusive breastfeeding could make a child dehydrated, so a baby needs water: Breast milk is said to be about 88% water, especially the first milk that comes out in each feeding session. Thus, breast milk contains as much water as a baby below 6 months of age needs. Babies on EBF should simply be offered breast milk when it is suspected that they are thirsty. Giving water to babies comes with a lot of concerns especially in our part of the world where safe, drinking water is hardly assured.
  2.  EBF is stressful: Motherhood and all it entails can be really stressful but when it comes to ranking stressful activities, putting a baby to one's breasts for feeding can hardly be compared to preparing formula (or in fact any other baby food) as the latter is much more stressful.
  3. Exclusive breastfeeding must last up to 6 months.While six months is the standard length of time for practising EBF, it is nowhere etched in stone that it must last that long. Many Pediatricians recommend 6 months as the maximum length of time and 4 months the minimum. That is, complementary feeding can be introduced when a baby is four months of age, but not before then if the mother for one reason or the other feels there is need to do so. Some babies start showing interest in other foods before 6 months, some pediatricians recommend such babies should be introduced to other foods to sustain their interest in foods besides breast milk. 
  4.  You need to drink milk/tea always to keep up your milk supply: There is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this up. In fact, milk and other dairy products are linked to infant gas pain. EBF mums should simply take enough water to keep themselves hydrated. 
  5. Not every woman can produce enough milk to EBF: Research suggests that above 90% of women can produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed an infant. Milk supply can only be affected when the mother does not eat well or when she doesn't frequently put the baby to her breasts.
  6.  Breast milk alone does not sustain some babies below 6 months: Breast milk is more than enough to satisfy any baby aged 6 months and below. Giving a baby that young any other thing is unnecessary at best and very risky at worst as it could expose your baby to contaminants in food and water at that vulnerable stage of your baby's life.
  7.  Exclusively breastfed babies tend to be picky-eaters once weaned. This is absolutely untrue and has been proven so. Picky eating is a trait found in many babies both mix-fed and exclusively breastfed.
  8.  Exclusive breastfeeding is only for mums who cannot afford quality formula or those who cannot assure the safety of their drinking water. This is also absolutely untrue. EBF is for every woman who knows its advantages and can practice it; rich and poor alike.

Monday 1 August 2016

Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable development

For the past 25 years, August 1 to 7 each year is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week in many countries the world over. This year's theme is "Breastfeeding: a key to sustainable development". The activities mapped out for this year's celebrations hopes to highlight the links between breastfeeding and nutrition, food security, health, development, survival, achieving full educational potential and economic productivity.

The objectives this year are:

  1. To inform people about the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they relate to breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF). 
  2. To firmly anchor breastfeeding as a key component of sustainable development.
  3. To galvanize a variety of actions at all levels on breastfeeding and IYCF in the new era of the SDGs.
  4. To engage and collaborate with a wider range of actors around the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding.  
Each of the 17 SDGs has an individual link with breastfeeding. The links are outlined below as culled from

  1.   No poverty: Breastfeeding is a natural and low-cost way of feeding babies and children. It is affordable for everyone and does not burden household budgets compared to artificial feeding. Breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction.
  2.  Zero hunger: Exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond provide high quality nutrients and adequate energy and can help prevent hunger, under-nutrition and obesity. Breastfeeding also means food security for infants.
  3.   Good health and well being: Breastfeeding significantly improves the health, development and survival of infants and children. It also contributes to improved health and well-being of mothers, both in the short and long term.
  4. Quality education: Breastfeeding and adequate complimentary feeding are fundamentals for readiness to learn. Breastfeeding and good quality complementary foods significantly contribute to mental and cognitive development and thus promote learning.
  5. Gender equality: Breastfeeding is a great equalizer, giving every child a fair and best start in life. Breastfeeding is uniquely a right of women and they should be supported by women to breastfeed optimally. The breastfeeding experience can be satisfying and empowering for the mother as she would be in control of how she feeds her baby.
  6. Clean water and sanitation: Breastfeeding on demand provides all the water a baby needs even in hot weather. On the other hand, formula feeding requires access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
  7. Affordable and clean energy: Breastfeeding entails less energy when compared to formula production industries. It also reduces the need for water, firewood and fossil fuels in the home.
  8.  Decent work and economic growth: Breastfeeding women who are supported by their employers are more productive and loyal. Maternity protection and other workplace policies can enable women to combine breastfeeding and their work. Decent jobs should cater to the needs of breastfeeding women especially those in precarious situations.
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure:  With industrialization and urbanization, the time and space challenges become more prominent. Breastfeeding mothers who work outside the home need to manage these challenges and be supported by employers, their own families and communities. Crèches near their workplace, lactation rooms and breastfeeding breaks can make a big difference.
  10. Reduced inequalities: Breastfeeding practices differ across the globe. Breastfeeding needs to be protected, promoted and supported among all, but in particular among poor and vulnerable groups. This will help to reduce inequalities.
  11. Sustainable cities and communities: In the bustle of big cities, breastfeeding mothers and their babies need to feel safe and welcome in all public spaces. When disaster and humanitarian crises strike, women and their children are affected disproportionately. Pregnant and lactating mothers need particular support during such times.
  12.  Responsible consumption and production: Breastfeeding provides a healthy, viable, non-polluting, non-resource intensive, sustainable and natural source of nutrition and sustenance.
  13.  Climate action: Breastfeeding safeguards infant health and nutrition in times of adversity and weather-related disasters due to global warming.
  14.   Life below water: Breastfeeding entails less waste compared to formula feeding. Industrial formula production and distribution lead to waste that pollutes the seas and affects marine life.
  15.  Life on land: Breastfeeding is ecological compared to formula feeding. Formula production implies dairy farming that often puts pressure on natural resources and contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
  16.  Peace and justice strong institutions: Breastfeeding is enshrined in many human rights frameworks and conventions. National legislations and policies to protect and support breastfeeding mothers and babies are needed to ensure that their rights are upheld.
  17. Partnerships for the goals: The global strategy for infant and young child feeding (GSIYCF) fosters multi-sectoral collaboration, and can  build upon various partnerships for support of development through breastfeeding programs and initiatives.   

As we mark the week-long celebration, let us make conscious efforts to encourage breastfeeding mothers to keep up the good work of contributing towards achieving the SDGs come 2030. 

Friday 22 July 2016

Memoirs of a Nigerian Mum; breastfeeding

A breastfeeding mum is a common sight in Nigeria. In fact hardly would your baby start crying than people around you say things like "ah, ah, breast feed that child na". Stories abound of women who were handed over to the police for refusing to breastfeed. A crying baby and a mum unwilling to breastfeed raises eyebrows as to whether the child wasn't kidnapped.

When I became pregnant, I naively expected breastfeeding to only involve sitting down and putting the baby to my breast. I didn't envisage the sore nipples, the engorged and painful breasts, the night feeds and even the feeds during the day when I'd rather be sleeping or doing something else. I also didn't envisage the times my baby would rather play than suckle my breasts.

I had read and learnt a lot about exclusive breastfeeding by the time my baby was due for delivery that I made up my mind to practice exclusive breastfeeding. Shortly after he was born I put him to my breasts and worried like most mums do if the yellowish fluid coming out of my breasts was enough. My nutritionist sister and the dietitian in the hospital assured me of that and encouraged me to put the baby frequently to my breasts as that would help the more mature milk to come in faster.By the second day of breast feeding, I cringed whenever I was to put my baby to my breasts. My breasts had become so sore, painful and cracked. I was later to learn that I wasn't latching the baby on correctly.
Breastfeeding was moving smoothly till sometime around my baby's fifth month when he would easily get distracted and I had to go to quiet places to breastfeed him. I had more episodes of painfully engorged breasts at this time than any other period. My breasts always seemed to leak milk. Whoever discovered breast pads deserves an award.

Then came the seventh month and my baby completely refused to breastfeed. I almost gave up on trying. He would only breastfeed without a fight when he was feeling sleepy. I held on to those times and ensured I breastfed him then. That episode lasted for about two weeks. Suffice it to say he was already eating other meals by then. He repeated it sometime around his eleventh month.

My baby is 13 months old now and still breastfeeding with no end in sight. Our target is age two.

Colostrum; baby's first vaccine

Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mammary glands. The World Health Organization describes it as "the perfect food for newborns" . In humans, it is produced from about the fourth month of pregnancy. It's colour could be anything from clear fluid to yellow  and provides all the nutrients a child needs the few days before breast milk comes in. It is also known to contain many immunoglobulins and antibodies that protect a baby from infections hence some people refer to it as "a baby's first vaccine " . Colostrum also has a laxative effect which helps newborns pass out that tar-like poo called 'meconium'.

Compared to more matured human breast milk, colostrum is said to have a higher protein content and lower sugar and fat contents; exactly as needed by newborns. Experts suggest that the breasts produce enough colostrum to nourish a newborn baby till the more mature breast milk comes in after a few days; they also suggest that babies be introduced to the breasts within the first hour of life which they say has several advantages including stimulating milk production. The more your baby suckles, the faster your milk comes in. This is because the activity of  prolactin (the hormone which causes milk production) increases with frequent breastfeeding .

 A newborn's stomach capacity is said to be about (5ml) one teaspoonful and thus easily satiated by colostrum; this capacity increases to above 30ml by the fifth day during which the mum's milk would have "come in". Colostrum gives way to the more mature breast milk after about 2-4 days post delivery   It is therefore more important to frequently make newborns suckle the breasts than make each  session last long. It is best to put the newborn to the breast at least 8-12 times everyday.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Antibiotics Abuse, Resistance and the threat of a post-antibiotics era

You have cough or sore throat you take Septrin; having running stomach or going to a place whose food you aren't so sure of you take Flagyl; having slight or persistent headache you take Amoxicillin; you give your new born baby Ampiclox drops to "flush" all infections the baby could have gotten from you; Your doctor prescribes malaria drugs as well as antibiotics after he sent you for malaria test alone to which you tested positive. These among many others are the ways we abuse antibiotics in our part of the world.  What makes matters so terrible is the ease with which we can source antibiotics in every drug shop around. It is not only wrong to self-prescribe antibiotics it also does not always help our case.

Sometimes the cough or cold one is self-treating with antibiotics is actually caused by a virus, thus antibiotics would have no effect.

Poultry and fish farmers also indiscriminately use antibiotics for varied reasons. Even our medical practitioners are guilty. They tend to prescribe antibiotics at almost every visit to the hospital; medical test or none. Our over-exposure to antibiotics has made microorganisms resistant to them.
When you misuse antibiotics, some microorganisms toughen, learn to strive, thrive and multiply even in the presence of the antibiotics; then they can be said to be resistant to that antibiotic.  Antibiotics resistance is the reason why drugs like Penicillin, Ampiclox and Tetracyclin hardly are effective these days. It is part of the reasons infections hardly get treated these days, often leading to both human and economic losses.
Antibiotics resistance has been described as a pressing public health problem world over. There seems to be a prevalence of organisms resistant to the current antibiotics.  Even  the  World Health Organization (WHO), said "we are gradually getting to a post-antibiotics era when minor infections and injuries  will once again start to kill". It has also been estimated that "one in four deaths in Nigeria will be attributable to antibiotics resistance by 2050", and that "resistant microorganisms will kill more than cancer by 2050". For those who know what these imply, they are very scary. To worsen the already bad situation is the case of fake and substandard drugs in the market.

We do not always need to take antibiotics.

Solution: take antibiotics only when prescribed and as prescribed by a qualified and "informed" medical practitioner , do not share or transfer medications and do not take left-overs.
Health practitioners should avoid indiscriminate antibiotics prescriptions. Tests should be conducted and the actual cause of infection determined before antibiotics is prescribed. Nevertheless, your doctor can use his/her discretion to prescribe drugs pending when your test result is ready.
Government and drug regulatory agencies should tighten the laws surrounding antibiotics prescription, availability and ease of purchase. One should not be able to walk into any drug shop and buy antibiotics  without a doctor's prescription.

 We need to be aware of what we could be causing or exacerbating when we indiscriminately take antibiotics. Antibiotics save lives. Let us not allow its indiscriminate use lead to loss of lives. I dread the post-antibiotics era. I dread the Superbug. You should too.

Therefore let us all say no to antibiotics  abuse and all forms of drug abuse.

Monday 16 May 2016

Memoirs of a Nigerian Mum; Acid reflux

Motherhood is a challenging task filled with emotional highs and lows. It could get confusing sometimes. At points when you do not know what to do you find out there are myriads of advice which are often conflicting and leaves you confused. If you are Internet savvy you could try searching the challenging issue on the internet ; this could leave you even more confused. If it is a health-related issue, the best person to consult is your medical practitioner.

That said, I would love to share a then-scary experience I had. As a first-time mum, there were too many things I did not know and was wary of picking up advice easily. I cross-checked time and again before taking an advice especially when it had to to with my baby. My mum was (and is still) such a solid rock. She was always my first port of call. When she wasn't sure of the solution she always told me. I have never had any reason to doubt her solutions.

My baby was somewhere between one to four weeks old then; I had just breastfed and put him back to sleep when he cried out. I rushed to him and noticed he was gasping for breath, arching his back and foaming at the mouth. I panicked. I carried him in my arms, woke his dad up and we tried all we could, from rocking to trying to breastfeed, to praying and in fact everything we could think of. That was probably the longest one or two minutes of our lives as parents. I later found out our baby had what is called "acid reflux". Because I was feeling sleepy I didn't bother burping him  after breast feeding and I put him back to sleep, on his back. The air he swallowed during breastfeeding, the breast milk and his stomach acid refluxed back up towards his mouth leading to what I saw. Holding him upright helped ease the discomfort. I learnt and put into practice the following which ensured my baby never experienced such again.

(1) I made sure I burped him after each feed by keeping him upright with his head on my chest or on my shoulders.

(2) When it was almost impossible to burp him, like after those midnight feeds when I could barely keep my eyes open I lay him down on his left side; that ensures the stomach is positioned in such a way to keep food down as the inlet is higher than the outlet. Considering how young he was, I placed a folded wrapper at his back to hold him in that position.

(3) I cut off milk and other dairy products as well as gas-producing foods like beans and cabbage from my diet. This was largely because I noticed he had so much infant gas pain each time I ate food containing the  aforementioned.

My baby never had that experience again.

Friday 29 April 2016

Memoirs of an Nigerian Mum : Jedi Jedi, Nra, Ela.

Many Nigerian mums must have heard the terms jedi jedi, nra , ela or nla and can describe the 'treaments' for it.  Search as much as your internet savvy self can, there are only few reliable literature about that condition on the internet. I hope my experience gets to inform some mums about this very popular baby ailment in Nigeria.

My baby was few weeks old when i noticed this inflammed area around his neck, bum and the sides of his nose. Like most first time mums I was concerned. Visiting mums will notice it and scream. some called it jedi jedi, others said it was nra, while some called it ela. I released they were just different  names for the same condition. What scared me most was the treatment regimen they prescribed, from some sort of flower, to leaves, root, hydro-cortisone creams and even antibiotics (to kill the ones inside, they said). The treatment prescribed scared me more than the apparently painless condition. Some told me it would enter his intestines and make him pass greenish poo.
A baby's inflamed neck

I did a little research which included consulting a pediatrician friend of my hubby . I simply decided to give baby about one diaper free hour daily during which I laid him bare-butted on a mackintosh spread on either his cot or my bed and also apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly (vaseline) on his butt when changing his diaper. Within two weeks the fire-like coloration on his buttocks was gone.

The one on his neck took a little while to clear. My baby was quite chubby and drooled a considerable lot. This, I believe contributed to the neck case. I simply applied petroleum jelly frequently to keep the place greased. I did not notice when it cleared just like the one on his nose. I also did not avoid any foods as a result .

So when I hear or see people give herbs and all what not to very tender babies, I feel sad  Reading articles like This as well as talking to a pediatrician strengthened my resolve to handle things the way I did.

 I share my experience so other mums will learn and also relax when they see such issues. We often give medications unnecessarily to very tender babies. If in doubt in any issue concerning your child's health please contact a pediatrician. A second or even third pediatrician's opinion may not hurt. Getting advice from other mums despite how well-meaning can actually not always be of help.

I pray our children grow up to be strong and healthy

side view of the so called jedi jedi in a baby's neck

Suggested posts: A child's first 1000 days
                            Maternal mortality in Nigeria
                           Steps to take in protecting your girl child from sexual abuse

Friday 8 April 2016

7 myths surrounding nutrition we need to discard

March was a month most nutrition advocates marched 4 nutrition by promoting targeted actions and investments to improve nutrition for mothers and children especially during a child's first 1000 days. Read this for more on a child's first 1000 days.

Though March is over, we at The Informed Mum  would keep marching on till every child in Nigeria and the world at large gets a good chance to thrive.

Nutrition is a core element of health and development with long and short-term benefits for both the child, his parents, community and nation . We live in a society where many myths thrive. There are myths surrounding almost every facet of our lives. While some may be harmless, others may put us in harm's way. Listed below are some myths  surrounding nutrition which could have consequences on a child's growth and development.

(1)A pregnant woman should not eat snails lest she delivers a sluggish baby who drools a lot . In reality, snail meat according to experts is a good source of protein,  iron and several other minerals a pregnant woman needs. What is more, it is  relatively cheap in many parts of Nigeria and there has been no evidence whatsoever linking it to sluggishness or excessive drooling in babies.

(2) Giving a child egg can induce stealing in the child. Eggs are said to have significant protein, vitamins and mineral contents which a growing child needs . They have never been known to induce stealing in a child. A child that steals does so for reasons other than eating eggs.

(3)Eating Ogbono, Okro or any draw soup when pregnant makes one deliver a baby with bald head. This particular myth is not only laughable but untrue and no evidence whatsoever exists to strengthen the myth. Some babies are born bald and it has nothing to do with consumption of draw soups.

(4) Fruits cause intestinal worms. This is very untrue . Fruits can get contaminated when grown in, or they get in contact with contaminated environments.The worms can then get transmitted when the fruits are not properly washed, hence the need to wash fruits in salted water or vinegar, especially those to be eaten raw . The sweetness of a fruit has noting to do with intestinal worms.

(5) Eating grass-cutter makes a pregnant woman's labor prolonged. This is laughable and untrue with absolutely no proven evidence backing it. A pregnant woman who wishes to avoid grass-cutter meat can do so for other reasons except prolonged labor as that myth holds no water.

 (6) A mum breastfeeding a newborn should not eat fruits and vegetables as they will make the baby have stomach pain,  diarrhea and jedi jedi. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre and other nutrients vital for a breastfeeding mum. It is even necessary for a new mum to consume significant quantities of fruits and vegetables.

(7) Oily foods cause malaria. Malaria is caused by parasites of the Plasmodium family and is transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito. Oily foods DO NOT CAUSE MALARIA and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest so. Instead of avoiding oily foods because of malaria, sleep under insecticide treated nets and avoid mosquito bites as much as possible because they, and not oily foods cause malaria.

So when next someone tells you any of the myths above, advice the person to discard them as the myths could place them in harm's way.

You can add more of the myths you know in the comments section

Thursday 7 April 2016

Seven things no nursing mum should apologize for

Being a nursing mum is hard and just like all hard things,it comes with its unique challenges. You do not have to fit into a perceived norm. So long as your choices do not lead to you neglecting your baby then you owe no one an apology.
Here are seven things no nursing mum should ever apologize for.

(1) Loving your job. You are supposed to be engrossed with caring for your baby but you rather have your mind on your power-point presentation, your shop, or wherever your duty post is. So long as your baby does not suffer for it, please go ahead. It shows fulfillment in your chosen career. Your baby should be better-off for it in the long run as he/she would likely have a happy mum(which rubs off on children), and a more financially stable home. Your career should not suffer because of motherhood. I once witnessed a midwife who herself just gave birth less than 24 hours before go to assist in delivering the baby of another mother in labour . She still had that legs-apart gait many mothers with recent episiotomies have, but she went to help save at least two more lives. That to me was beautiful and meant she loved what she does for a living. There are certain women who sitting at home can drive crazy, you owe no one an apology if you fall into that category. No one wants a crazy mum.

(2) Furthering your education. I have seen mums use the opportunity of maternity leave to round-up their studies or enroll into a fresh one. Education, just like a career is tasking and can take  you away from your baby . We all at one time or the other need some form of self improvement, do not let nursing a baby deny you an opportunity to do that. Just ensure your baby is in good hands when you are not disposed to attending to him/her.

(3) Choosing not to exclusively breastfeed your baby. Feeding your baby on breast milk alone for the first six months has proven time and again to be the best way to feed a baby, but for certain reasons, some mothers may not be able to keep up with it. You do not have to be shamed into what you cannot afford doing or do not want to do. Go ahead and supplement with formula but keep it in mind that your option is not the best available but is good nevertheless. And you owe no one an apology because no one but you wears your shoes and therefore you alone know where it pinches.

(4) Breastfeeding in public. Most mums can identify with that moment when your child refuses to be pacified except by your jugs, Please go ahead and feed the baby. Yes you can be discreet and do your 'thing' without baring it all. But if there ever exists a situation where you have to choose between baring it all and not feeding your baby, please choose the former. Anyone embarrassed by the sight should look the other way.

(5) Feeling overwhelmed. Nursing and motherhood in general can be overwhelming.Simply get someone to help you with your baby when you  think you are on the verge of breaking down, then take time out to rejuvenate.  It is completely normal and does not stop you from being a super mum. Your baby needs a sane and happy mum so you should do what it takes to retain your sanity.

(6) Calling your baby's doctor at the slightest sign of discomfort. It is okay to be a bit paranoid when it concerns your baby's health. It is better a concern is dismissed  by the doctor than have a health issue aggravate because you do not want to disturb anyone. Never belittle your mummy-instincts no matter how many times it has sparked off when there was little or no cause for alarm. Never apologize for wanting a healthy baby.

(7) Your post-baby body. It is great if you can get your pre-pregnancy body back, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with stretch marks that refuse to clear, extra weight that has refused to burn and the baby bump that has refused to completely flatten. And when anyone makes a negative remark about how you look post-baby, remind the person of the maternal mortality statistics in Nigeria and the fact that making babies in Africa is not a feat for the weak-hearted. You should never apologize for not getting back you pre-pregnancy body.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Handling your picky-eater baby

Time to introduce your about six months old baby to solids and you gradually introduce baby foods to your baby, but he/she will have none of it. Try as much as you can, your baby will not eat unless force-fed. Calm down! Many mothers have been there. And we at TIM have done our research and hereby present tested ways of handling your child who just wouldn't eat.

(1)    No matter what, do not force-feed. Force-feeding not only makes a baby averse to feeding times but can also choke your baby. News recently went round about a mum whose baby choked on the food she was being force-fed. We do not want such fates to befall our little ones so we need to quit force-feeding. Sing, play, dance if need be, to see if it would make your baby eat but do not force-feed.

(2)     Find out if your baby's attitude to food is because of your environment. At about the age of 6 months when it is recommended solid foods be introduced, babies also get easily distracted by things happening around. Find out if your baby wouldn't eat because he/she is distracted and then resort to feeding him/her in quiet places at quiet times.

(3)     Does your baby eat a little and then refuse? Then let it dictate its portion size. You may only need to feed it more frequently. 

(4)    Your child wouldn't eat any of the food options you offer and neither 2 nor 3 above apply? Then try variety. Besides the packaged and branded cereals and other baby foods like Nutrend, Cerelac and Frisocream, are fruits and Cereals you can whip up at home and find out which one your baby prefers. Fruits like banana, avocado and pawpaw can be pureed and fed a baby. You can also try pap, mashed potatoes, yam and rice. Our good, old 'swallow' with soup can also be tried. Simply find out your baby's 'swallow' of choice and try varieties of soups. Health experts recommend you do not add salt to baby's food especially those aged one year and below. So it is better to make soups meant specifically for your baby and store in the freezer in one-portion sizes (that if you have a freezer and electricity at your disposal) There just has to be one food that would strike a chord with your baby. (We would be dedicating an entire section to baby meal ideas so watch out for it).

(5)     Be creative; try different varieties of same food. Maybe today you give just mashed potatoes, next time you add milk or any vegetables of your choice. You could also add fishes like the one popularly known as 'titus' in Nigeria.

(6)     When you do find out your baby's preference, enrich it the much you can as suggested in (5) above. You can also improve the aesthetic value of the food. For example, preparing a meal of mashed carrots and potatoes gives the food a delightful colour, as compared to just potatoes alone.

(7)    It is necessary you do not wean picky-eater babies off breast milk early, especially if they are yet to get to age two. They need the breast milk to help sustain the little extra food they eat.

Note: introduce foods one at a time to check which one would agree with your baby's system. And whenever you introduce a new food, wait for like 48 hours before introducing another new one. This ensures one notices the effect any particular food has on your baby.

See Baby meal ideas for suggestions on what foods you can offer your child. 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Steps mums should take in protecting the girl child from sexual abuse and molestation

Image result for child sexual molestation
Sometime last year, Nigerians were greeted with the shocking news about Ese Oruru; an intriguing tale of abduction, child marriage and islamization. The media hype probably led to her release.  Hardly had the news died down than we learnt of a similar case in Benue, and then others. These exclude the so many told and untold stories of paedophilia often perpetrated by close family members and friends. Not many of us have forgotten the Sugarbelly saga. I am not sure the girl child has ever been as threatened as she is today.
Image result for child sexual molestation

While little girls can do little or nothing to protect themselves from  predators, parents; mothers especially, can do so much to ensure their girls do not get their childhood stolen from them. We cannot always be around them, but what we teach them can protect them even in our absence.

Teach your girl child the different parts of her body and which parts are very private; parts which no one, not even you the mother is allowed to touch. Paedophiles are often family members or close associates who often intimidate the child into letting them 'explore' their body parts. Let your girl child know no one has the right to touch her inappropriately.

Teach her to confide in you. Let her know she can trust you. Let her know she won't be punished for telling.  Sexually abused children usually express the fear of who to talk to.  Mothers need to build close relationships with their daughters and make themselves approachable. Mothers need to make their daughters know they would always be on their side when they need them. Your child should be able to tell you whenever someone is making inappropriate advances at her. And when your girl child talks to you, please listen.
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Whenever you notice your child's discomfort around any person (child or adult alike because a child can abuse another), do not take it at face value, put your investigating abilities to work and find out exactly why. Also, do not let an adult get away with an off-colour remark about or around your child.

Whenever you notice your child with extras; extra sweets, extra clothes, extra cash and in fact anything beyond what you gave, find out the source and the reason behind the gift.

Know the terms you use for different parts of the body. It is okay to use buzzwords to name the private parts, but take note whenever your child adopts another name for her privates and get her to tell you where she picked it up from.

Believe your child whenever she reports abuse. Most times (statistics put it at 90-95%) it is the truth and you need to swing into action immediately no matter who is involved.

When your child reports an abuse or molestation, the first thing to do is take the child to a paediatrician for further investigation. Every other action should come after that.

Most importantly, ensure the molester is punished and kept away from the child. If a relation, severe all ties, if a neighbour, there may be need to move out of the neighbourhood even if temporarily.   It gives your child some sort of closure knowing that her parents fought for her and that the 'bad' person was punished. It may not bring the stolen innocence back, but it would help ensure your child doesn't become dysfunctional as a result of that experience.

Never blame a child who has been abused/molested. Children are by nature so trusting and should never be held responsible for the action of the molester especially if the molester is an adult. In fact, an abused child needs to be reassured of her parents' love and affection.

Child molesters are known to display certain antics like threats, showering the child with goodies and so on. They often threaten the child with death or terrible things if they attempt telling anyone. Let your child know about such antics and teach her not to fear subtle threats.

No matter how bad situations at home become, do not let it affect your child, at least try cushioning the effects. It is easier to molest a child whose parents are always busy, usually fighting, divorced or separated. Anything out of the norm increases your child's risk and so should increase your closeness and access to your child.

Monitor your children. In as much as your child will not love being monitored, you need to do so, especially when they venture into their teens. Know who they associate with. There may be need to periodically invade their privacy. Read their SMS, chats, emails once in a while. They cannot always be trusted with doing the right things.

And when a molester claims your child enjoyed it or initiated it, please ensure the person rots in jail.

Parents should note that male children get molested too. While we protect our daughters, our sons should not be left out as the above can also apply to them. May God help us as we do the much we can in protecting the precious gifts given to us.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Infant gas pain; that great source of distress to newborns and their mums

Not sooner had you returned from the hospital after having your baby and after the baby's umbilical cord had fallen than your baby began to writhe in pain, arch it's back and cry at intervals. It seemed to get worse at night.

 People around called it different names but the ones that stood out were colic and navel pain. They went ahead to reel out treatments which included gripe water, gbomoro, bitter kola water, salt water just name it. 
No matter which one you chose, the problem remained so you kept giving treatment after treatment to your baby whose organs are still very fragile and shouldn't be exposed to chemicals unless when completely necessary.  Familiar?

Infant gas can be distressing to both mother and baby. It is said to be a very normal occurrence in babies which usually happens either due to harmless bacteria breaking down sugars in the large intestines or air swallowed by the baby when crying or feeding. Several steps may need to be taken to reduce the gas and distress caused by it . This gas pain usually reduces as your baby's digestive system matures, sometime around the baby's fourth month.

When you feed your baby , keep your baby's head higher than his stomach. This ensures the milk sinks downwards and the gas goes up making it easier to burp out. Also use a leisurely pace, your baby tends to gulp in air when sucking at a fast pace. If your milk is flowing fast you may need to remove your baby for few seconds and then continue. You should also burp the baby at intervals preferably when the baby pauses during feeding. These help expel the gas that could cause pain and discomfort.

This gas can also be produced when a breastfeeding mum eats gas-forming vegetables and foods like cabbage, onions, beans, and even dairy products (like milk and cheese). Mums may need to monitor their babies' reactions for about 24 hours after they (the mums) have eaten certain foods to note the ones which cause discomfort to their babies and thus reduce their intake of such foods.

If you bottle-feed your baby, ensure the nipple of the bottle lets milk out slowly as fast flowing nipples could make the baby gulp in a lot of air when feeding. That is, let the nipple hole be small. You may also need to check if it is the formula that is causing the gas pain so you change the brand.

When your baby is experiencing gas pain, it is advised you put your baby on his back and gently massage his tummy in a clockwise direction, you could also gently pump the baby's leg back and forth like in a bicycle-riding pattern. These help release and expel some of the gas.

If the gas pain is accompanied by fever, your baby is extremely fussy or unable to  have bowel movements, or your instincts demand so, please take the baby to his pediatrician as soon as possible. It is always better  safe than sorry.

We need to reduce the rate at which we expose our babies to chemicals especially in the form of drugs. Drugs for babies should be ONLY when necessary and prescribed by a pediatrician.

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Nigerian mums do breastfeed

I belong to a Facebook group called "black women do breastfeed" it is an awesome group where black women, mostly those based in the United States share their breastfeeding stories while encouraging others to breastfeed. It was in that group I first learnt that the breastfeeding rate among  blacks in America is low compared to white Americans . Reasons on further research why this is so includes socio-economic factors and social stigma.

Black women in Africa do breastfeed. Okay, let me speak for Nigeria. In Nigeria, breastfeeding is taken for granted. It is extremely rare to see a nursing mum who is not breastfeeding. It is almost unheard of, except for health reasons

 In Nigeria we breastfeed and breastfeed hard. The average age of weaning a baby off it's mother's breast milk is one year. If not for the rapidly increasing rate of public breastfeeding shaming, a breastfeeding mum used to be a very frequent sight. You saw them in the bus, in church, in public gatherings and in fact every where. We still see them anyway, but with a lot more decorum. They no more bare their breasts. Now you would hardly see the breast, the only evidence of breastfeeding is the baby who is held in a breastfeeding position and whose sucking motion is obvious. Not like we care anyway, a mum has to do what she needs to do.

Nigerian mums breastfeed the best they can. They derive joy in being sources of nourishment to their kids. Breastfeeding cuts across class, tribe and tongue in Nigeria.

I fed my child on breast milk alone for almost the first six months of his life. There were instances when he was hungry in very busy places and I had to breastfeed. I have done that in church, at airports, in banks, and even in shopping malls. I simply find a corner, some quiet, some not, to feed my son and I have no apologies whatsoever . I have even had people offer me spaces in their offices to nurse, sensing I was uncomfortable doing so in public. I only started accepting the offers when my son  became easily distracted and I needed to nurse in quiet places.

Whenever I see a mum breastfeeding in public, I give her an encouraging look. It is not easy . In as much as I value decency, but what should a mother do when her baby is very hungry and needs to breastfeed? Let the baby starve? Definitely not an option.

While our builders and government have not deemed it fit to put nursing rooms in their plans while constructing public places (even though I detested the few nursing rooms I entered abroad), we still need to feed our babies and breastfeed we must.

This write-up is therefore a thumbs-up to all mums who are confident enough to ignore the shaming and feed their little ones when they need it in public. Only few of us consider it an eyesore when a lady displays her breasts in the name of fashion, but majority of us do so when it is done as a result of feeding another human. I consider that to be double standard We need to feed our babies and if it is not so comfortable for your eyes, simply look away. Our babies must feed.

Friday 19 February 2016

Expecting a baby? Here is a checklist of things the Nigeria-dwelling expectant mum should get in preparation for her baby's arrival

Once a pregnancy is confirmed, every expectant mum and especially the first time ones begin to make preparations for the arrival of the little one(s). It could get challenging especially with the current economic situation. Most mums often wonder what is needed and what is not, what can be substituted and what can be ignored.

The basic things to get for the arrival of the new baby should be almost similar world over but there often exist variations based on clime, culture and several other factors.  Nigerian dwelling mums have the environment and culture to put into consideration when choosing items for their babies.

 Below, in no particular order are items every expectant mum should get.

(1). Baby bath set. This usually comes in a set containing bath tub, soap dish, bucket, potty, container for babies toiletries and bowl for water. The contents of the set vary from one manufacturer to another. The set contains almost everything you should use to set up baby's bath corner during bath times.
Bath Set  (Source:

(2) Baby towel.

(3) Six or more Onesies. My friend calls them "pino pino". Usually used as underwear for babies. Can also be worn alone on very hot days.
Onesie (Source:
(4) Six or more overalls.
Overall (Source:

(5)Two or more baby caps. For covering the baby's head especially when the weather is cold.

(6) Six or more pairs of baby socks. Ensure you buy good ones whose band would not be too tight on baby's ankles or calves.

(7) Two or more bibs. You don't want baby's cloth stained by drool, milk or baby food.
Bib  (Source:
(8) Baby wash cloths. This has varied uses like cleaning baby's tongue, cleaning drool or stain off baby's cloth, placing on shoulders when carrying baby as they tend to suck everything near their lips at a point.
Wash cloths (Source:
(9) Baby's toiletries. These should include lotion, oil, soap, nail clippers, sponge, set of combs and cutting buds. Powder used to be among them but it's use is discouraged by pediatricians because of the risk of respiratory problems it carries. It is best to use soaps, lotions and oil of the same manufacturer.

(10) Baby cloths. Depending on the sex of the baby you are expecting, you could buy gowns or shirts and shorts. As many as you deem fit.

(11) Bassinet/Cot/play pen etc. Different kinds of products exist for lying the baby down. Mums should make their choices based on cost, convenience and preference. Mothers who intend to co-sleep with their babies buy bassinet where they keep the baby during the day as visitors are known to throng where ever there is a newborn. You simply put your baby in the bed where he/she can be admired. It is not recommended you let everyone touch your baby especially in their early days and weeks to reduce their chances of contacting infectious diseases.
Bassinet (Source:
Baby cot (
Foldable baby bed (Source:
(12) Insecticide treated nets. The need for this cannot be overemphasized. You definitely want to reduce your baby's exposure to mosquitoes and all other insects that pose health risks to your baby. Good insecticide treated nets can be gotten from pharmacies and health centers.

(13) A baby blanket and/or shawl. Used for wrapping the baby up especially when the weather is cold.

(14) A jumbo pack of baby diapers. You wouldn't want to start running helter-skelter looking for where to buy diaper soon after delivery. Newborns poo almost after every meal. Having a jumbo pack is not only economical, it also saves one the stress of running around so soon after delivery. When buying for a newborn baby, get the smallest diaper size. It is recommended you buy just a pack and watch your baby's reaction to the product. You do not want to pile up diapers you will end up not using because your baby's skin is sensitive to them. Buy one pack and if your baby's bum accepts it then you can go ahead buying more packs of same brand.

(15) A pack of breast pads. If you intend breastfeeding, then you need breast pad for leaky breasts. You would not want to be embarrassed by milk-stained blouses.

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Breast pads
(16) Soap for washing baby's cloths.

(17) Maternity pads and sanitary pads. Maternity pads are best used for the blood flow the first few days after which ordinary sanitary pads can be used when the flow must have reduced . Three to four maternity pads are usually recommended and about same number of sanitary pads.
Maternity pad (Source:
(18) 3 or more nursing bras. These ensure you don't unhook your bra or pull out your breast to breastfeed your baby. You simply unhook or unzip the particular cup on the breast you want to breastfeed your baby from.
Nursing Bra (Source:

Did I forget to add any needed item? Feel free to add what you feel is needed in the comment box.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Lending a helping hand this lenten season

Almost daily one is greeted with the news of persons made to flee their homes and their comfort zones to either become internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their countries or refugees in another's. Most remarkable among them are mothers with young children, pregnant mums and young girls whose exposure to sexual exploitation increased as a result of their displacement.

The number of IDPs in Nigeria is currently placed somewhere near one million. That is one million human beings. Helpless, almost hopeless and left to survive in camps most often not suitable for habitation. Left to feed and cloth on whatever the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) or any other agency and public-spirited individuals provide. They struggle to survive despite the harsh environment they find themselves in. If they had better options they definitely would not be in those camps. These people are homeless in their own country .

Daily on the international front we are accosted by Syrians fleeing their homes and country for survival. They face untold hardships and threats. Many die while trying to flee. Countless more are trapped in their country unable to afford the high fee to be smuggled out in boats. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports millions of such people and solicit donations  from public-spirited individuals to assist in caring for them.

These displaced and fleeing people are exposed to the elements and are most often not prepared to face them. Food, shelter and clothing suddenly becomes needs that depend on others to be met. Mothers watch their children gradually get malnourished and their daughters face increasing threats of sexual violence. They are helpless. They would never had chosen this option if they had better ones. And with each passing day, they wonder when and if they will ever return to their homes, if their lives would ever be normal again.

 While we as individuals may not be able to do anything to stop the terrorism in North-eastern Nigeria or other parts of Africa or even the war in Syria, we can contribute our little quota to ensure that the victims get at least one balanced meal each day, that the children don't freeze in the chilling winter cold as their parents smuggle them away to safety, that one more parent can see his/her child smile even in the face of difficulties.

We can imagine it better if we picture ourselves in the shoes of the various individuals and families facing war and terrorism. We can choose to relax and pretend we do not care, or we could lend a helping hand by visiting the websites of the various reputable agencies that cater for displaced persons and refugees and donating even if it is one dollar to their cause. You could also organize a group and gather food materials, clothing and cash gifts and send across to one of the IDPs in Nigeria. Even your used cloth can ensure one more person gets protected from the chilling cold.

Let us all look inwards and find out what it is we can sacrifice to contribute to making the life of at least one displaced person comfortable while we all pray the mindless killings and loss of lives comes to an end.

Everyone deserves to live in safety. Everyone deserves to be comfortable. Every child deserves to grow in a healthy and safe environment. Let us all work towards making life safe and comfortable for kids everywhere in the world.

Guest column (My journey through exclusive breastfeeding)

I am mum to a precocious toddler. It seems like it was just yesterday that the cutest human being I have ever seen was placed into my arms shortly after I 'pushed' him forth into the world.

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Exclusive breastfeeding was something I heard about for quite a long while but had absolutely no idea why it was being encouraged. At a point I felt it was because in our part of the world, we do not have reliable sources of water for drinking so we needed to let the baby mature before exposing the child to risks of water-borne diseases. Then at a point I believed it was for mums who couldn't afford quality baby formula. Then later, I felt it was for people who could not guarantee cleanliness when preparing their baby's foods. All that changed when I got pregnant and started attending antenatal classes, started reading literature related to pregnancy and birth.

After I was wheeled out of the labour room with my baby and given my bed in the postnatal ward, I put my baby to my breast and the feeling was awesome. I felt so happy while nursing my baby. Hours later he pooed what I learnt is called meconium. It looked like tar. My journey to exclusive breastfeeding started.

Contrary to what I had heard and expected, it was not stressful. In fact I didn't have to rush to rinse bottles, scoop out milk and prepare formula; I simply placed him on my breast and voila! I also didn't have to rise from my bed at night to prepare formula or give my baby water, I simply sat up and placed him on my breast since we co-slept. This part of the journey contributed greatly to my laziness when I started weaning him. I was lazy to rise up and prepare baby food.

According to the hospital's policy, newborns were checked for jaundice. Mine was checked and was noticed to be slightly jaundiced. I was told exclusive breastfeeding would clear it in no time. And it did.

Each time I took my baby to the clinic for his vaccinations, his weight made the nurses ask if he was on breast milk alone to which I replied in the affirmative. Experienced mums also knew this  merely by looking at him. He looked so strong and healthy.

He never fell sick, never caught cold while it lasted. Even when his dad and I got very bad cough and sore throat, my little man stayed gidigba. Then came teething, apart from his desire to nibble at whatever he laid his hands on, that milestone was met smoothly. No diarrhea and fever as I was made to expect.

He also didn't have nappy rash nor those irritations babies often have in their skin creases. I learnt it was partly as a result of the breastfeeding and partly because I applied petroleum jelly to his bum each time I changed his diaper. Breast milk, I learnt did not have all those enzymes in formula that could irritate a baby's skin.

He only caught cold few weeks after I introduced solids to him. It lasted just one night. I made sure I increased breastfeeding when I noticed it and I believe that contributed to how fast the cure came. By midday next day, his temperature returned to normal and the catarrh ceased.

 Baby has never had to visit a hospital apart from his six weeks check-up and vaccination appointments, a situation I perceive is as a result of a strong immune system as a result of being fed only breast milk for his first six months.

I am presently a very strong advocate of exclusive breastfeeding and when I speak, I share my experience. If I am privileged to be a mother of another baby, I would ensure I feed the baby breast milk alone for the first six months.

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Are you a mum, dad, or child caregiver? Do you have any child or mother health-related experiences to share which you believe others can learn from? Please send us an email at and your story will be featured in the guest column.