Exclusive breastfeeding, I gave it my all

TANZANIA: HURRAH! I’m done with exclusive breastfeeding. What a trip full of conflicting emotions; it’s definitely not an easy road.

I think my words speak for the many mothers who have walked this difficult path. During my exclusive breastfeeding journey for the first six months, I experienced dedication, resilience, and a range of emotions.

Exclusive breastfeeding has been a journey woven with love, sacrifice and unwavering determination. As I reach the end, my emotions are running high – a blend of joy, nostalgia and a hint of bittersweet melancholy.

The initial excitement was overwhelming. The birth of my child was a significant moment and my decision to exclusively breastfeed was a commitment to nurturing a bond that goes beyond the physical.

In the early days, I experienced a delicate balance between exhaustion and euphoria, becoming a source of nourishment and comfort.

However, as the weeks turned into months, my journey became more complex. Sleepless nights, the demands on my body and the constant selflessness required pushed me to my limits.

Mixed feelings naturally emerged from the interplay of joy and fatigue. Breastfeeding is not easy for every mama, as much as society tries to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children, we have to be honest about the fact that it can be a challenging and even painful journey for some.

Some of the most common breastfeeding issues include knowing that your baby has a good breastfeeding latch, what to do about low milk supply, are there treatments for engorged breasts and preventing cracked nipples when breastfeeding, these are few questions some women ask themselves.

Above all, dedication is required to make breastfeeding work because along the way you will be discouraged, without forgetting that when you return to work, poor support for nursing is one reason many mothers stop breastfeeding as some workplaces do not offer accommodations like a place to pump.

I owe my success to the support of my husband, family, friends and the education I received from health experts at the hospital. To be honest, after five years, I almost forgot everything about breastfeeding.

One important lesson I learned was the significance of understanding my baby’s needs. I also discovered that breastfeeding every three hours was crucial, although the nurses insisted on learning the individual needs of each child. I also learned the importance of pumping as early as possible.

This sends a signal to the brain that more milk is needed, stimulating an increase in milk production. I started storing milk within the first week after giving birth.

To boost my supply, I tried various methods, including fenugreek and fennel tea, which never disappointed me. Additionally, pumping every three hours helped increase my milk production.

Before returning to work, I had stored over 11 litres of breastmilk in my freezer. I continued pumping at work with the same frequency. I applaud all the innovators in the world.

Pumping with my second child was easier, thanks to a wearable breastmilk pump I purchased immediately after leaving the hospital. It was a lifesaver.

I could use it discreetly anywhere, from the office to public places, without anyone noticing. As my exclusive breastfeeding journey comes to an end, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I reflect on the determination that carried me through sleepless nights, the sacrifices made out of love for my child, and the innovative tools that made the journey more manageable.

In the quiet moments after completing exclusive breastfeeding, I find myself at the crossroads of the past and the future. The bond forged through this challenging path becomes the foundation for my evolving relationship with my child.

Weaning is not only a physical transition, but also an emotional transformation, marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

To all the mothers who have overcome challenges and now have mixed emotions as they complete exclusive breastfeeding – our journeys are a testament to the power of maternal love.

Through tears and smiles, we have woven a tapestry of devotion that will forever be imprinted on the canvas of motherhood.

As the months go by, it’s time to start the weaning journey, which means gradually introducing solid foods. Doctors stress the importance of taking a balanced approach to weaning.

They recommend that solids be introduced gradually, alongside breast milk or formula, instead of replacing them. With gentle guidance, parents can navigate this transition by introducing new flavours and textures, while honouring the baby’s individual pace.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health bodies recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and continue to receive breast milk alongside other foods, known as complementary foods, until at least the age of two.

This is because breast milk serves not only as food, but also as a natural source of comfort for a child who is worried or tired.

Additionally, breast milk contains immunity-boosting components that increase significantly whenever the child is ill.

However, in developed countries, over 60 per cent of mothers introduce formula or complementary food to their babies before the age of six months, despite the fact that WHO guidelines do not recommend this.

In Tanzania, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding has increased from 58 per cent in 2018 to 64 per cent in 2022. Furthermore, statistics show that the percentage of children who are breastfed within one hour after birth has also increased from 53.5 per cent in 2018 to 70 per cent recorded last year.

Proper nutrition is crucial within the first 1,000 days after a mother conceives and continues until the child reaches two years of age. This helps ensure the child’s optimal physical and mental health development.

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