“Most mums if not all agree that Breastfeeding is important. Breast milk has substances that protect the baby from illnesses by boosting the immune system especially in early life. Human milk provides virtually all the protein, sugar, and fat the baby needs to be healthy and well nourished. For the immune system, breast milk contains antibodies, immune factors, enzymes, and white blood cells. These substances protect your baby against a wide variety of diseases and infections not only while breastfeeding, but in some cases long after the baby is weaned.
It is not only good for the baby but also good for us mums. Breastfeeding helps us in losing the baby weight gained during pregnancy.
The baby’s suckling triggers the release of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin.
Oxytocin creates uterine contractions that are necessary to squeeze the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size.
Exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months offers more protection to babies and helps protect them from developing allergies. For these reasons, I was determinedly to not only breastfeed my children, but exclusively breastfeed them for the first 6 months.
I exclusively breastfed all my 3 kids.
My Exclusive Breastfeeding Journey
I believe started when I attended a Lamaze class when I was 33 weeks pregnant with my first born where the Lamaze instructor taught us about breastfeeding, pumping and breastfeeding positions.
When I left the hospital with my first born I had always assumed breastfeeding is easy and comes naturally. This made me get frustrated since I had not anticipated the long feeding hours and the sleepless nights that come with a new baby.
I also realized I had a lot to learn in terms of increasing the breast milk supply and proper latching.
I watched a lot of YouTube videos on breastfeeding, pumping and latching. This helped me a lot to breastfeed comfortably alongside a breastfeeding pillow.
As a new mum, understanding my newborn also took some time and I was often unsure if the baby was full after breastfeeding.
I researched a lot about the size of the newborn stomach and feeding habits. This put me at ease that my breast milk is actually enough for my baby for six months without supplementing.
My biggest challenge was mostly from external forces
This is because a lot of people, especially from the older generation would discourage me from exclusively breastfeeding with the belief that the baby is not getting full.
I know a lot of older mums always mean well when trying to advice new mums but it was hard to deal with such advice especially being a First Time mum.
Another challenge is that a lot of people believe that if a newborn is not sleeping at night then they are hungry, which is not always the case.
Such advice made me second guess myself on whether I am doing the right thing exclusively breastfeeding my daughter.
I also had a lot of challenges in positioning the baby to latch well and positioning my back so as not to strain it during breastfeeding.
Exclusively Breastfeeding the Twins
After getting the twins, I realized breastfeeding the first born was a walk in the park though at the time it did not seem so.
When I gave birth to the twins I remember one nurse and doctor telling me that I will have to introduce Formula since they were two babies and my milk would not be enough. A lactation nurse taught me how to tandem feed them when I was still in hospital which was also quite helpful.
I really wanted to exclusivley breastfeed the twins just like had done with daughter. Luckily, I had joined the multiples blessing group when I was pregnant and I had read positive stories of mums who had breastfed their multiples. I also researched widely on breastfeeding multiples and I braced myself for the journey.
I have to say exclusively breastfeeding the twins was not easy at all. I remember the first night at home with the twins I almost sent my husband to buy Formula in the middle of the night. The babies were always on the breast and I was tired.
I thank God I had experience from my First Born about EBF and pumping, I imagined if the twins were my first born it certainly would have been harder. I had a lot of support from the multiples to multiples society from mums who had previously exclusively breastfed their multiples. The trick with the twins was to have a lot rest after feeding them. I did what is known as tandem feeding so I would put each baby on their breast. This shortened the long hours of breastfeeding. I also had a twin’s breastfeeding pillow that helped me to position the babies in what is called the football position.
The best part about breastfeeding twins was that each baby would stimulate milk from each breast and therefore increasing milk supply. I remember counting down to weaning when they were younger because of the sleepless nights. When I thought about all the benefits of breast milk and reading the positive stories from multiples mums in the multiples blessing group, it certainly kept me going.
The Challenge of Breastfeeding Twins
Is that most of the time, the babies are always on the breast. It can get very tiring. Another challenge is that you have to learn the art of positioning and latching both kids on the breast or else it can be very frustrating.
When the twins were 4 months, I had blocked ducts lumps in my left breast because of oversupply of breast milk and the twins were sleeping longer and feeding less. It was the most painful thing. Even after going to the hospital the doctor encouraged me to continue breastfeeding and pumping or else my ducts will block again and cause more breast lumps leading to mastitis.
Based on my experience breastfeeding all my children, I felt compelled to help other mums.
When my babies were younger, I would share simple breastfeeding tips and my experience to the Breastfeeding group as well as the Multiples blessings group on Facebook. This used to motivate many mums.
Since I became a mum in 2013, I have mentored many mums in achieving exclusive breastfeeding. This has been through the various mum Facebook groups I am in where I have been able to mentor quite a number of mums.
Of late I get private messages from mums who would like to EBF their babies. I try to understand the challenges they are facing since each situation is unique and we go through the EBF journey together.
And when I became a multiples mum in 2015 and was mentored by other multiples mums in the Multiples blessings group and successfully breastfed my twins, I felt compelled to give back to other mums of multiples.
I now mentor a lot of multiples mums to succeed at Exclusive Breastfeeding.
So many mums whether with one child or multiples experience many challenges not to mention latching issues, pain and breast discomfort problems, low milk supply, fatigue, sleepless nights and they end up being stressed and give up on their breastfeeding journey.
I can say with confidence that most of these challenges can be overcome. Empower yourself with information on breastfeeding, get a breastfeeding pillow and learn how to get comfortable while breastfeeding. Learn how to get your baby to latch properly onto the breast and If you think you have low milk supply, put the baby on the breast as much as possible to stimulate milk production and reduce stress. Stress is the number one killer of breast milk supply.
I also highly recommend this article https://babiesfirstlactation.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/the-newborns-stomach/ . This article was an eye opener for me. I hope it will be an eye opener for other mums too. In summary:
My top tips for mums who want to exclusively breastfeed are …
- Mindset matters: you have to have a determined mind to do it.
- Avoid stress or manage it.
- Eat a balanced diet: Don’t overeat. There is this notion that we have especially as African mums that you have to over eat for you to get a lot of breast milk. This is not always the case. I advise mums to eat a normal balanced diet
- Hydrate well: and drink up a lot. My preferred fluids were 5 to 6 litres of water daily, Ovaltine, fresh juice, bone soup and once in a while uji.
- Pump: Especially if you are a working mum, start pumping as soon as you soon get home from hospital and pump consistently. The more you pump and breastfeed the more milk you get. Schedule your pumping time and your body will automatically adapt to producing breast milk. I used to pump at 3am, 6am and in the afternoon 4pm while on maternity leave, and twice daily when I went back to work.
As much as I am not a lactation expert, I am passionate about advising mums on exclusive breastfeeding from my own experiences as a mum.
For those who want to exclusively breastfeed especially if you are a working mum, you have to start pumping and storing as soon as you get home from the hospital. Eventually, work on increasing the number of times you pump. When I started pumping, I remember day one I got only 5mls. In one week I was getting 50mls. In 3 weeks, I was getting over 200mls per sitting, within a month I was at 600mls per sitting.
The secret is consistency. Pump at least 3 times a day as you continue breastfeeding. Schedule your pumping sessions like early morning, afternoon then at night like midnight when the supply is very high.
Exclusive Breastfeeding is not easy but it is doable, one has to be determined. All in all, I have to say there are so many external factors influencing breastfeeding and more so Exclusive Breastfeeding and sometimes mums feel that they should or need supplement the breast milk. No one should blame any individual mother for this, and no mum should beat herself up if this happens. A mum has to do what a mum has to do. We all try to do the best for our kids.
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