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.

Image result for breast pads
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.

photo credit
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.

photo credit

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.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Joining in the fight to eliminate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Today is International day of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation (FGM), a day which started off in 2003 when the then First Lady of Nigeria, Stella Obasanjo declared Zero tolerance to female genital mutilation. FGM was banned in Nigeria last year and the practise was made a punishable offence.

The term 'female circumcision' reeks of deceit and a bid to disguise the wickedness of the act of mutilating a female's genitalia. Circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin of the penis. Clearly females have no penis therefore the term 'circumcision' does not apply. So instead of saying "I want to circumcise my daughter", tell yourself the truth that you want to mutilate her genitals. You want to make her less of who God made her to be. You want to deny her sexual satisfaction, you want to increase the risks she would face during childbirth, you want to deface her genitals so she would be ashamed of it. And despite its being banned, you want to take the extra risk of exposing your daughter to harm as only quacks now perform the mutilation. You also want to endanger her life as she could be exposed to diseases and may die as a result. You also want to serve time in prison as well.

 Female genital mutilation is simply parents' inhumanity to daughters. It serves absolutely no purpose and has no link with preservation of virginity, marriageability or cleanliness. Agreed, the practice is reduced and almost non-existent today, but another act which operates based on the same principle now thrives; suppression/massage of the clitoris. It is called "igba aka" in some parts of Igboland. I was at a primary health care center recently and a nurse, sorry a public health technician was teaching mothers of baby girls how to properly suppress the clitoris. It could be a lesser evil, but evil nonetheless. Let the female genitalia be for crying out loud.

 FGM could lead to infertility, maternal death, diseases and sexual dysfunction. It violates the rights of the girl child. Let us all join hands to end this practice which not only undermines the rights of females but also poses serious threats to their health, human rights and potentials.

Friday 5 February 2016

Memoirs of a Nigerian mum 4

While I tell my story, I do hope medical practitioners involved in this kind of act desist from it.

I was led into the labor room at about 2pm after the matron said I was 8cm dilated where I met a very friendly group of elderly midwives including a male. Before then I never knew males went into midwifery. The chief (as they called the head midwife) checked me and said those on afternoon shift would likely be the ones to deliver my baby. She advised me to stroll round the labor ward. The morning group soon handed over to the afternoon people led by one beautiful but unfriendly-looking young midwife. As my contractions became more frequent and I was in serious discomfort, one of the midwives, the youngest among them kept encouraging me, helping me massage my waist ( though I doubt if that made any difference). The leader of the afternoon group scolded her and told her to leave me alone. I was moved to tears at some point.

Time to push proper and I was at loss of what to do being a first-timer. All the things I was taught at antenatal lessons and the ones I read up on the many written works I read flew threw the window. The lead midwife scolded, shouted and screamed instructions at me, she even at a point forcefully pushed my two laps apart as I couldn't keep them apart while pushing. I was obviously not doing things as she directed and she told me if I continued that way I would suffocate my baby in a very harsh tone. I remember bursting into tears and asking her if she thinks I would willingly want to suffocate a baby I had borne for 40 weeks and three days. I also remember imploring to her humanity, to her feminine emotions as well. Few minutes which seemed to me like hours later, my son was born. While cleaning me up the lead midwife apologized and told me the harshness was just to make me strong enough to push the baby through. I could not talk as I was weak but I remember wondering if that is what they teach them in nursing and midwifery schools. All through the period, the nice, youngest midwife was encouraging me and saying "oya do it this way", "look at your navel while you push" etc. And she was the one who I looked up to for guidance. Did I mention that lead midwife walked out on me at a point? Right on the delivery bed sef.

Well, experiences sha. Midwives and everyone involved in healthcare should know that hostility and harshness does not make things better. You do not make the delivery successful with your harshness. I believe nicer midwives handle childbirth better. I have heard of a case where a woman in labor was slapped by the midwife delivering her baby. Sad thing is at that point the last thing a mum in labor has in mind is her rights. She has too many things going through her labored mind, and immediately after delivery the joy of surviving pregnancy and birth in a country like ours makes the labor room experience fade. But we need to stand up for each other. No mum in labor should be scolded or shouted on. Whatever instructions needs to be passed can be done nicely.

We need nicer and more humane nurses and doctors in delivery rooms.