World Breastfeeding Week is marked in the first seven days of August every year. The theme for this year, Protecting Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility, focuses on how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health and well-being of all and the imperative to protect breastfeeding worldwide.
Breastfeeding is an important part of a mother’s journey even before she gives birth.
Rachel Adera, who is a lactation champion and midwife at the Kenyatta National Hospital, says that a mother will start producing milk from as early as when she is 37 weeks pregnant.
Some women are diagnosed with inverted nipples, a condition which makes it difficult to breastfeed. Adera says this is treatable but it needs a lot of patience.
“When you have an inverted nipple, it has to be pulled outside every time the baby needs to breastfeed and eventually as the baby continues to breastfeed, the nipples will adjust,” she says.
Adera adds that when the nipples are still inverted, the baby still needs to be fed.
“We advise mothers to use bottle feeding as a temporary alternative for this particular problem,” she says.
For mothers who may not be able to breastfeed throughout, they will need to express their breast milk to ensure continuous feeding for the baby.
“Breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to six hours, in the refrigerator for up to four days and in the freezer for about 6 to 12 months. That is why we advise mothers who are going back to work to express as much as they can to ensure constant supply while they are away,” says Adera.
Breastfeeding experience is different for every mother and there are some women who have had worse experiences.
Naomie Kochei, a mother of one boy, says her experience was not easy, especially during the first two weeks. She had cracked nipples.
“I would really cry while breastfeeding. Having cracked nipples when you have to breastfeed is extremely painful,” she says.
She, later on, enjoyed breastfeeding after the cracked nipples healed. Her milk supply is always in plenty and her son is enjoying its benefits. Faith Kuto says her experience was not any better. Her breast milk took a whole week to flow and she was discharged without any lessons on how to latch the baby. Even worse she has inverted nipples, a condition which makes it very hard to properly breastfeed.
Faith had to introduce her daughter to bottle feeding from the first day and by the time she wanted to get her back to breastfeeding, she did not want it.
Besides that, her breast-milk supply wasn’t enough so she supplemented with formula and eventually stopped giving breast milk when her daughter was eight months old.