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.