By Irene Nabusoba
The joy of breastfeeding can be immense only when we choose to enjoy it and defy all odds to do it. I have learned this as a proud mother of three and a public health journalist.
“According to health workers, mothers should breastfeed their babies immediately after birth and exclusively for six months, and continue for at least two years along with other feeds”, I recall some of the quotes in the stories I have written.
When I had my first baby, I practised what I preached so much that I exceeded the minimum bar of two years as recommended by the World Health Organisation by five months. And the benefits were enormous for the boy.
He looked big and more intelligent than other children his age.
He also enjoyed breastfeeding to the extent that when I would return from work, Mark, now nine years old, would beckon me to the chair, offer me a quarter a glass of water (with the rest lost in transit), then ask me to ‘carry baby for ‘chu chu’ as he referred to breastfeeding!” If there were visitors, he would ask that we go to the bedroom because he did not want to be teased.
It was the same story when I had Martina four years later who I breastfed for two years and 10 months.
However, I had underestimated the benefits of breastfeeding until I had my third baby, who turned one year this month. An ardent believer in career, I accepted a job up-country and purposed to do my best both as a mother and an employee.
The baby was only four months old then. I planned to move with her until she turned six months, so I could breastfeed her exclusively.
After that, I would leave her home with pumped milk, and wean her much earlier than her siblings because I needed the job.
The plan worked until Manuela turned six months. As I sunk into the job, with consequent frequent travels, my plan to express breast milk waned.
The long hours on the road coupled with irregular meals took a toll on the quantity of milk. Storage and transportation to Kampala was another challenge as I would be gone for five days a week, leave on Sunday and return on Friday.
The baby frequently fell ill, I took longer to get in shape than I usually do and I was emotionally and financially distressed. While I clung to the job for the pay cheque, I spent more on formula and healthcare.
It was always emotional goodbyes every time I departed for work.
It was worse when I returned home because my baby was never eager to see me. I was a stranger in my own home.
However, on my last trip home, Manuela, who was 10 months then, was throwing in the towel to breastfeeding. I cried.
I was at crossroads and had to decide whether to keep the job and lose my Manuela or to quit and get her back fully latched on the breast.
I chose to quit the job and re-initiate my baby into breastfeeding. She is now attached to me and her siblings, who enjoy watching her, suckle. And my husband is happy that our little one is still breastfeeding.
More importantly, my trips to the paediatrician have reduced drastically.
Even when she gets ill, she recovers quickly. She is one healthy and sunny girl.
And as luck would have it, God rewarded me with another job that gives Manuela time to suckle pakalast (until three years this time).
As we celebrate the breastfeeding month, I concur with medical research that breastfeeding is the best start for babies.
I know that the benefits of breastfeeding go beyond nutrition. Breastfeeding protects babies from allergies, obesity and boosts their intelligence.
It also boosts the mother’s appearance, emotional health by facilitating quick return to pre-partum shape, minimises stress and risk of postpartum depression.
The writer is a public relations executive with Quality Chemical Industries Limited