The importance of early breastfeeding cannot be emphasized enough. Apart from promoting mother-child bond, it is considered the healthiest way to nurse a newborn baby. According to research, breastfeeding the baby within the first hour, which is also known as the ‘golden hour’, provides your baby with optimal nutrients meant for growth and development. It is good for the mother too.
Moreover, UNICEF advocates for exclusive breastfeeding– “without any other food – for the first six months.” This according to the global non-governmental organization “promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects babies against infectious and chronic diseases.”
World Breast Feeding Week (WBW), marked August 1-7 since 2016, is a campaign by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). The global network of individuals and organizations works towards protecting, promoting, and supporting of breastfeeding worldwide.
With such a massive support, experiencing challenges in efforts to breastfeed your baby can be heart-breaking if not depressing.
Chebet Limo Injera shares with us her personal experience that pushed her into depression. She has since learned a few lessons that she hopes can help mothers across the world to celebrate WBW despite their circumstances.
“For all the mothers out there, we all know the challenges and joys breastfeeding comes with”, Chebet acknowledges.
“I have three kids. With my last two boys, I was and I am (my little one is 5weeks old) privileged enough to put them to the breast immediately I popped them out of my womb. But this was not the case with first child.
Breastfeeding plays a big role in ensuring the baby learns to latch, and activates sucking instinct. Although there was no milk (my milk usually starts coming out after day 2-3) the baby would suckle. Additionally, this is beneficial to the mother, as when a child suckles; oxytocin is released, stimulating the uterus to contract. After delivery, the muscles of the uterus normally tighten, or contract to deliver the placenta. The contractions also compress the blood vessels that were attached to the placenta. Moreover, the compression helps prevent bleeding. If the muscles of the uterus fail to contract strongly enough, the blood vessels can bleed freely leading to hemorrhage.
Breastfeeding helps save lives!
Okay! Enough about the science that goes with it!”
After the birth of her firstborn baby girl, Chebet fell into postpartum depression.
“I was a first-time mum, and everything was scary to me.
My baby refused to breastfeed!
I know most of you would be like: ‘how? Babies never refuse the breast, perhaps you just didn’t try hard.’
Well, mine refused completely. God knows I tried everything. I mean everything: from nipple shields, to pulling my nipples with a syringe- this was excruciatingly painful- to seeing a lactating specialist. I am telling you, I had tried everything.
I would put my baby on the breast, and she would cry like never before. Then, we would both cry.”
Chebet admits that after a month of trying and failing, and with support from her mother, she was ready to try supplementing breast milk with formula.
But this came with its own set of problems.
“It crushed me that I couldn’t breastfeed my baby. I felt like I was letting her down, that I was less of a mother.
We would go for the routine clinic visits and I would try and hide when she would cry”, she says adding that she would “take out a bottle to feed her while all the other mothers would just pop out a boob and breastfeed.
I felt sad, ashamed, and guilty. This really broke me.
Making a bottle every time the baby wants to feed was hard work not to mention very expensive. We really had to dig down our pockets to be able to afford a bottle of formula after every three days, which by that time was around 850 Ksh (USD 8) for the 500gm pack.
When my baby turned 3months, I finally accepted that formula and expressing was the way for me and my baby. It was a sad reality that I had to embrace. My breast milk was also getting low. So, I knew it would soon be just formula for my baby. I had one month before I went back to work.
My mum had to go back home because she wouldn’t stay with me forever (I really wish she could). I’m forever grateful to her.”
Support is essential when dealing with a new baby and more so, depression.
The mother of three is ever thankful to her mother, husband, and family who understood, encouraged, and never judged her during the challenging period.
That they “supported me and never made me feel less of a mother, are the reasons I overcame the postpartum depression. God bless them always.”
“Soon we were just on formula. My milk started drying up after I went back to work. Expressing became difficult.
“Today, my daughter is 8years old. Her name is Chloe. She is very intelligent, and has a smile that lights up the room. When she is with her friends and age mates, you cannot tell that she did not breastfeed when she was a baby. She is healthy and strong, and looks like just every other 8-year old. Chloe is very energetic and inquisitive.
So for all the mothers out there who for some reason are not able to breastfeed their baby, I know you have tried. I know you have cried. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Hold on. YOUR BABY WILL BE OK. They will grow to be strong, healthy boys and girls.
I dedicate this breastfeeding week to you!
The personal experience and photo were shared by Chebet Limo Injera, a working mother of three and wife.