While the birth of her child came with immense joy, Jane Mbuvi also faced some challenges. The first-time mother needed to resume work after her maternity leave, at the same time continue breast feeding. Ms Mbuvi had been advised to ensure she exclusively breastfeeds for the first six months and she was keen to do exactly that. She also wanted to keep the emotional attachment she had established with her son.
For some time, Mbuvi thought she would not be able to breastfeed if she went back to work. The 35-years-old, who lives in Machakos, was a troubled woman, to say the least.
“I did not know what to do. I was worried. I felt like I was faced with a decision to choose between my son and my job,” Mbuvi told Health and Science from her workstation.
But this was before she met Stella Mutinda, a nutritionist at Machakos Level Five Hospital. Mbuvi shared her predicament with Ms Mutinda after which she learnt she could actually express milk to feed her baby while she was away, thus keep to the rule of exclusive breastfeeding for six months.
She said Mutinda taught her how to express milk and store. “The nutritionist assured me the baby would be fine taking expressed milk. I was not sure but it looked like a good option,” Ms Mbuvi said.
She added: “A challenge I had the first time I expressed milk was I did not know how it is done. I also didn’t know how much milk would be enough to last my baby until I return in the evening. Storage also bothered me. I also kept on asking myself if the person I was leaving the baby with would feed him the way I would wish.”
“I went back to work but I would sometimes be unable to concentrate. The feeling I needed to be with my baby kept on coming and would distract me. But that was before I got used to expressing milk.”
Feeding a baby on expressed breast milk has been found to be as effective and mothers can focus on work.
Mothers can express milk manually or mechanically using breast pumps.
Experts say expressed milk is safe and can feed the baby for up to eight hours even without refrigeration.
Ms Mbuvi said the lessons the nutritionist offered her made all the difference. “The nutritionist told me to sit upright and relax. That way, I would express the milk easily. With time, I was able to express enough milk to last the baby the whole day. I would continue breastfeeding after work. It continues to work just fine for me,” she said.
She adds: “The last three months have not an easy journey but I am getting used to it. There are times I would feel the urge to rush back home whenever I saw other mothers with their babies. There are times, I would get a feeling my child is crying and milk would suddenly start dripping. But I am overcoming it day by day.”
The Standard Group Women Network President Queenter Mbori said organisations should set aside rooms for nursing mothers.
“The nursing room is necessary. It has had positive impact on the output of lactating mothers,” Ms Mbori said.
She added: “We must make it easy for mothers to work without having to worry about their children. This can be taken care of easily by providing them with a nursing room. The peace of mind that comes with availability of a nursing room has enabled women to be productive at work, just like men.”
“The whole idea is to help mothers sustain breastfeeding for six months. The Standard has made sure nursing mothers are well taken care of at its nursing room at our Mombasa Road headquarters. The room has comfortable seats, a sink, sanitizers and a fridge for for storing milk. There is also another chamber where they express milk from. And we have some music in the room.”
Mbori said any organization with more than 20 lactating mothers should have a nursing room. The nursing mothers room is also a requirement of the law, she said.
“There are times expressing milk may come with headaches and fatigue. That is why the environment must be conducive enough for mothers can express milk whenever they want to,” Ms Mbori said.
She noted that working mothers face many challenges when nursing rooms or places where they can express milk from are not provided by employers which may affect their production.
“The company is also developing new maternity and paternity policies that will review maternity and paternity leaves and offer some flexibility of working hours mothers after giving birth,” Mbori said.
Ms Mutinda said expressing milk is also good for the woman’s wellbeing. “It helps prevent conditions such as breast engorgement and mastitis,” she said.
“And with a refrigerator, the breast milk can last up to six months. We encourage mothers to express milk, especially during the first month when the flow is high,” Mutinda said.