How To Win The Breastfeeding Challenge
I always thought that breastfeeding is normal, natural, and easy. When I had my first baby, I realized how difficult it was. Actually, if it was not for the support, education and encouragement of my lactation consultant, I wouldn’t have continued the two years challenge or even started the process after birth.
The first challenge was getting the approval for maternity leave from work. I was firmly told that I am allowed three months only. I replied that I will quit if I didn’t get the approval for the full two years, and I meant it.
First of all, under the Egyptian law all mothers have the right to take three months paid maternity leave and extend it up to two years if she wishes, but unpaid. Second, I learnt that the optimum nutrition for my baby is six months exclusive breastfeeding then complementing afterwards with food until the baby is weaned at two. This made me take the decision to give full attention to my baby for six months. Lastly, I felt it was a religious duty to breastfeed for two years as it was explicitly mentioned in the Holy Quran. So, I had the intention and determination to do whatever it takes to be with my baby.
Challenge #1 solved, and the maternity leave was signed.
What you can do: Discuss with your manager the importance of being with your baby and how this will reflect on your work when you return. Also, discuss other options such as flexible working hours, working from home, or going on part time basis. If possible, you can bring in a replacement until you return and mentor her from home to make sure everything goes smoothly.
The second challenge was the modern equipment and the commercialization of private hospitals that want to include as many items as possible like early glucose feeds to baby, use of heater and nursery room facilities on your hospital bill. After the baby is born it is examined and washed and put under a heater then fed water with glucose! The nurse will recommend resting and seeing the baby later maybe the following day or so! The hospital staff claim that this process is necessary for the baby’s survival to scare the family. This is not natural.
The natural process is when a baby is examined, cleaned, and given to the mother directly for a big warm hug. Your hug will give the baby the warmth it needs to stabilize the body temperature, the sound of the heartbeat that the baby was used to hearing when it was inside you, and the smell which will encourage the baby to move towards the breast and start suckling. Even if the skin-to-skin practice is not done long enough for the baby to move and start suckling, it will still help stimulate the secretion of milk and other hormones to calm you and the baby. To be able to practice the skin-to-skin, I had to bring in my lactation consultant in the delivery room, and my husband to support my request.
Challenge #2 solved, and skin-to-skin was practiced.
What you can do: Make sure to prepare before the delivery who will support you during the delivery and how. Explain the skin-to-skin practice and its benefits and ask that person to make sure that your request is attended to.
I did the skin-to-skin after huge resistance from the medical staff, so the baby wasn’t allowed enough time to start the suckling process. I requested the baby to be in her hospital crib with me in my room so I can feed her continually. The third challenge was that I felt really exhausted after the delivery and didn’t feel strong enough to hold my baby, but my lactation consultant helped me and showed me how to properly latch her on. This is very important to avoid many issues such as gases, improper suckling, and later on teeth bites. It was not easy, and I kept trying hard until I managed to do it. Interestingly, I learnt that the lactation consultant insisted on starting breastfeeding during the first hour because this is when the baby is most alert and has a strong suckling reflex.
Challenge #3 solved, latch on was learnt and practiced.
What you can do: Attend a workshop or watch professional videos about latch on. Alternatively, you can join the FREE Mother Support Group on Facebook for resources, or visit a lactation consultant.
The fourth challenge was incorrect information received from the medical staff. A nurse came in with a bottle of glucose telling me that I have to give it to the baby because I don’t have milk. I challenged her but she insisted and asked to press and see if any milk will come out. As I was doing this, another senior nurse came in and asked what was happening and as she explained: “There isn’t milk yet, only colostrum which is enough for the baby. Colostrum is a thick golden liquid with all the antibodies that give a lifelong immunity shield for the baby even when breastfeeding ends. This doesn’t mean that your baby won’t get sick, but it reduces the severity of the sickness and prevents major complications.”
Challenge #4 solved, baby got colostrum and I was rescued from acting on incorrect information.
What you can do: Read, educate yourself about stages of milk production and what to expect and do at each stage.
The next day I returned home and there was another set of challenges which I will tackle in my next article. I will recommend ways to overcome them too.
Ayah is a Community Psychologist specialized in needs assessment and capacity building through strength-based approaches. She has 20 years of diversified experience in coaching, learning, and development. She educates parents and youth on effective communication, and social and emotional skills to prevent relationship problems and promote their well being.
Ayah earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from The American University in Cairo (AUC). She is a member in the British Psychological Society (BPS), Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA), and an Associate member in CIPD; an Authorized Certified Instructor for Parent and Youth Effectiveness Trainings, and the Licensed Representative for Gordon Training International (USA) in Egypt as the CEO of Life Coach ERS; and a Certified Executive Coach from The University of Cambridge (UK). She is a Co-Founding Board Member in Mother Child Friendly Care Association, and an Advisory Board member of Family Experts Hub.