Wednesday 10 February 2016

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.

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