By Christine Namatovu Luyiima
You will be going to Kasese for a week,” my boss informed me. At that moment, I thought about my baby. She was four months old and I had wanted to exclusively breastfeed her for six months. I was in a dilemma.
I needed to go for the trip, yet my baby needed me too. At that moment, I decided to pump enough milk to last the time I would be away.
I started that day and by the time I was leaving, I had 34 bottles of breast milk frozen for the time I would be away. Of the 34 bottles, 20 were 250ml each and the remaining 14 were 125ml each.
I took the trip and four days later, I was called and told that the milk would not be enough for the remaining days I was away. I could not come back home because I still had to work.
Fortunately, I had carried a breast pump and bottles. I pumped more bottles of milk and put them in the office freezer. The next day, I packed the milk in ice packs and sent it on a bus to Kampala. It reached safely and my baby had enough milk until the end of that week.
This was a radical move I had to take because I had been taught by my grandmother that breast milk is the best for the baby.
When I gave birth to my first daughter, I had inverted nipples.
Breastfeeding was painful. I was happy when my grandmother, who is also a nurse, visited me. When she saw my nipples, she asked the nurses for a feeding needle from the nursery.
In a twinkling of an eye, she had popped my nipples out and the baby could now breastfeed better. Grandmother taught me about breastfeeding and brought me a lot of literature on the subject. This strengthened my resolve to breastfeed.
She advised me to express the extra milk because my baby could not keep up with the supply. We bought a bigger fridge and I started banking breast milk. I would take a warm drink before breastfeeding.
Since I gave birth by caesarean, it was painful sometimes, but I never gave up. In a day I would express 800ml of milk.
By the end of my maternity leave, I had banked 42 bottles of milk. Disaster struck when power went off for a week and all the milk thawed. That set me back, but it did not deter me from accomplishing my goal. I started afresh and by the time I returned to work, my baby had what to start with.
I had two maids at the time one for the baby and the other to do my household chores.
When I got back from hospital, I explained to the maids that we were going to exclusively breastfeed the baby. During maternity leave, I taught the maid in charge of the child how to warm the milk, what time to feed the baby and how to clean the bottles.
While at work, I would also send the milk I had expressed using a boda boda cyclist, who knew my home.
By the time I had my second baby, initiating breastfeeding was easy. My husband was well-informed about feeding the baby, so even when I was away he did a good job.
I never took the foods like porridge that mothers are encouraged to take to increase breast milk. I only had a nutritious diet. Having to sit up in the middle of the night was a challenge. However, I realised it was the sweet and sour experience every mother faced so I never gave up.
Today, I am a contented mother because I gave my babies the best. They do not easily fall sick and we have been able to bond. Through breastfeeding, I was able to shed off pregnancy weight easily and my stomach is flat although I gave birth by caesarean.
The misconception that nursing makes woman’s breasts to sag beats me. How come nuns who never breastfeed, do not have firm breasts? Breasts sag as you age and not as a result of breastfeeding.
Do not give your baby formula; it may be nutritious, but it is not protective. Breastfeed your child one day at a time.
Tips for expressing breast milk
Breast milk is the best food for your baby. If you cannot be with your baby, their caregiver can still give them breast milk expressed by hand or using a pump.
How to express breast milk
In a comfortable place, relax and think about your baby.
Wash your hands with soap and water.
Put a warm cloth on your breasts for a few minutes.
Massage your breasts using your fingertips, make small circles and massage from your chest out to your nipple, moving around your breast.
If you are using a pump, follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Milk expression should never be painful and seek help if it does.
The amount of milk you will get when you express breast milk will depend on your supply, the pump and how relaxed you are.
2.Storing breast milk
Expressed breast milk is perishable and must be stored properly to prevent contamination.
Store your breast milk in hard plastic bottles or disposable nursing bags tightly capped after filling. Do not use ordinary plastic bags because they can crack when put in a freezer.
Put the amount of milk your baby takes in a feeding bottle. Freeze smaller portions for times when your baby may want extra milk.
Leave an inch of space in the bottle or nursing bag because breast milk expands when it freezes.
Never add fresh breast milk to frozen one.
Put the date and baby’s name on the container so that caregivers use the oldest milk first.
You can store breast milk in the refrigerator at 39° F or less for two days.
If you will not use it within 48 hours, freeze your breast milk. Frozen breast milk should be stored in the freezer where the temperature is at 0° F. It can be stored there for three to six months.
When travelling with bottles of breast milk, store them in a cooler with ice or ice packs.
3. Warming breast milk
Thawed, breast milk should be refrigerated and used within 24 hours.
Put the bottle in a container with warm water. Shake to mix the fatty and watery layers as they separate when breast milk is stored.
A void a lot of heat because it may damage the protective components of the milk, while vigorous shaking will cause the fat to separate.
Test the temperature by putting a few drops onto the inside of your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot for the baby.
Warm as only the amount of breast milk needed per feeding.
Once thawed, don’t refreeze breast milk.
Do not warm breast milk in a microwave. The milk may become very hot even though the bottle feels cool.
Compiled by Christine Namatovu,a breastfeeding consultant