As the world celebrates exclusive breastfeeding this year from August 1 to 7, with the theme, Talk to me! Breastfeeding-a 3d experience, Winifred Ogbebo, in this report samples the opinions of career women on exclusive breastfeeding, the benefits and tips to help overcome the challenges.
“Breastfeeding was something I made up my mind to do and I was just ready for it,” says Gold Shekari.
A journalist and now publisher of Specials, a monthly magazine, the mother of one narrates, “I wouldn’t say that it was a very easy experience, especially at the onset with the introduction of breast milk to my baby being my first child. I had nipple cracks on both nipples that lasted for more than a month and that’s usually very painful. I was tempted to discontinue, because of the pain; it’s very painful.
"You can’t imagine it until you experience it, but I had an aunt who came to stay with me and she’s a nurse and she kept emphasising the benefits of breast milk and encouraging me that the pain I was going through was just part of being a mother and it would soon be over. I continued and after about a month, I was healed of the cracks and it became a very nice experience.
“You know that with breastfeeding, you have to sit for a couple of minutes, if not an hour, to feed your child and combining it with your work is tough. There was no crèche then, so I had to carry my baby to the office. I had to have someone hold the baby for me while I worked and then every 30 minutes, every hour, maybe the baby would sleep. Particularly, my baby didn’t want to use a feeding bottle so I couldn’t express breast milk into one and I know that most hospitals do not encourage bottle-feeding. They always want you to express milk.
“So I had to be taking her to work. I must confess it was quite tasking. I didn’t have a driver and so I was driving myself and most times when driving on the Kubwa expressway, she would start to scream. I would have to park by the road and breastfeed her for 30 minutes before continuing on our way home.”
However, she says it paid off because her child is very healthy and very intelligent. “She has never suffered from any childhood sicknesses and diseases since birth. At one year four months old now, she can identify almost every part of her body and she hasn’t been to any school yet. She knows her name. She knows everybody in my house’s name and she calls them by name and I have about eight people always coming and going at my house. So I believe that I’m already seeing the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. It’s tasking and demanding, but in the end, it’s more advantageous.
“I did five and a half months because I wanted to introduce her to water because I felt that at that age, breast milk alone would not satisfy her and I was also under pressure from different quarters to give her food and water. But I want to add that she was taking just a little water and more of breast milk, and the a little Frisocream and Similac.
“The only disadvantage I see is that when these children get to six months, as I learnt from the World Health Organisation, breast milk alone is no longer adequate for them, so you need to give them water, but it’s usually a problem adjusting from breast milk to normal feeding and diet.
“I didn’t have any health challenges while breastfeeding. Yes it was tiring but I coped, especially because I had help in the house, so I wasn’t really doing too much house work.”
In the words of Tope Oshikoya, a business woman, “It wasn’t easy, but I thank God I made it.”
The mother of a plump and very healthy looking baby girl, Oshikoya says she got encouragement from the nurses during her antenatal visits to the hospital. “The nurses kept telling us that breastfeeding was good and that it made babies healthy. I discovered this to be true. Do you know that for the first six months after my baby’s delivery, I didn’t have to take her to hospital for treatment of any sickness or diseases at all?”
But you wonder how she coped with business and breastfeeding, especially when her business trips took her as far away as Dubai sometimes. “Wherever I went, I took her along with me even though I felt tired sometimes, but there was nothing I could do. It was something I made up my mind to do,” the heavily pregnant lady says, promising to also do exclusive breastfeeding for her second child.
On what advice she has for other career women taking the breastfeeding option, Shekari says, “I want them to know that the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding far outweigh any disadvantages.”
The executive director, Advocacy Nigeria, Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf said that women of childbearing age should be taught so that they will know that breastfeeding is very important.
“We need public enlightenment on the importance of breastfeeding to the child and also the benefits to the mother. It is also cost effective,” she says.
Yusuf advised career women to express their breast milk into bottle and make sure it is warmed up before given to the child, when they have to be away for a long time. “It can be done,” she says.
A medical expert says giving your baby your milk for as long as you can is one of the best investments in your child’s medical, emotional and intellectual future.
According to a report on Why You Should Continue Breastfeeding, though it takes effort to keep up with breastfeeding when the mother must be away from her baby for part of the day, there are good reasons for sticking with breastfeeding.
To begin with, the report states, your baby gets better nutrition and the two of you continue to enjoy a special closeness. Experts say that there are other practical benefits too, which include:
1. Breastfed babies are healthier, so mother (and father) will miss fewer workdays to stay home with a sick baby who is not welcome at day-care. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers have three to six times less absenteeism than mothers who formula-feed.
2. Breastfeeding saves money. Less money is also spent on healthcare for breastfed babies, because of fewer visits to the doctor and fewer serious illnesses.
Providing breast milk for feedings while you’re gone protects your baby against allergies.
· Pumping, saving the milk and even leaking while you’re at work helps you feel connected to your baby when you must be apart.
· Because only mothers can breastfeed, a baby always knows who is the person he loves the most. Nannies, babysitters, and day-care workers are no substitute for a nursing mum.
· Mothers can look forward to a warm and cuddly reunion at the breast after hours of separation. Mother and baby can enjoy the convenience and closeness of breastfeeding during all the hours they are together, day and night.
LEADERSHIP findings reveal that though most of the career women interviewed admitted to exclusive breastfeeding, the National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) revealed that the country’s rating is a mere 13 per cent, a 4 per cent decrease from the 17 it was in 2003.
But the director-general, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), Dr Paul Orhii, says that to encourage breastfeeding, they are organising training and workshops for women.
Here are some time-tested tips to help working mothers continue to give their babies the very best in nutrition after they return to their job.
1. Consider these alternatives to spending the entire day away from your baby:
Bring your baby to work. This may not be possible on an industrial assembly line, but there are many workplaces that can accommodate the presence of an infant. We’ve known mothers who work in shops, in offices, in family businesses and in other settings who have just packed up baby and brought her along when it’s time to return to the job after a postpartum leave. Breastfed babies are very portable. Arrange a safe and comfortable place for naps, diaper changes, and floor play, and you’ll be all set.
Try work and wear. Wear your baby in a sling-type carrier to keep baby close to you while you assist customers, sort papers, work at the computer, or even attend meetings. You may have to work a longer day or accept less pay to make up for job time spent attending to your baby, but you’ll save on the expense of childcare and there will be less emotional wear and tear on mother and baby. Eventually, when your ‘sling baby’ becomes a toddler explorer, you may have to make other arrangements, but by then, baby will not be depending on you for all her nutritional needs.
Bring the work to your baby. Working from home is becoming more and more common in these days of telecommuting. Even working at home one or two days a week and going into the office the rest of the time will give you more time to breastfeed your baby on cue. Some mothers who work from home concentrate on working during baby’s naps, or they go to bed late or get up early. Some manage to work with baby nearby or even in their laps. (Watch out for little fingers hitting the computer keyboard!). Others find they need in-home childcare when they simply must get something accomplished - but mother is still available for nursing as needed.
On-site day-care. Family-friendly employers are increasingly making childcare available at the workplace. With this option, you can just go to another part of the building to breastfeed your baby on breaks or at lunchtime. Day-care workers can call you when baby is hungry, or you can let them know when you’ll be in to visit during the day.
Nearby day-care providers. Many parents look for childcare near their homes. Sometimes it’s more practical to look for a babysitter near your workplace, especially if you have a long commute that adds an hour or more to the total time you’re away from your baby. With day-care near your workplace, you may be able to go to your baby and nurse one or more times during the day. You can also nurse the baby at the sitter’s, or day-care centre, before and after work. This will cut down on the amount of pumping you need to do while separated from your baby.
Visits from your baby. Maybe it’s possible for your baby to come and visit you while you’re working, during your lunch break or at other times during the day. Mothers who make this option work for them often have grandma or some other relative as chief childcare provider - someone who’s willing to go an extra mile (literally) for baby’s health and happiness. Perhaps you could meet your caregiver and baby at a convenient lunch spot halfway between home and your workplace.
Part-time work. Minimising the time you spend away from your baby will make breastfeeding easier. Many mothers plan to work only part-time while their children are small - either shorter workdays or fewer shifts per week. Others ease back into a full-time schedule slowly as they and their babies are ready.
2. Be flexible. Babies have a way of derailing mothers from their pre-planned career track. Expect to change pumps, dresses, caregivers, and even jobs. Try to remain flexible as you plan for your return to work and for how you will continue to breastfeed. Your needs will change and so will your baby’s. If something that worked well a few weeks ago is not working now, change it. Babies have different needs and preferences at different stages.