Every expectant mother looks forward to breastfeeding their newborn child immediately after delivery. Breastfeeding the baby within the first hour after delivery gives them the best nutrients and energy thereby increasing the chance to survive, thrive, and remain active.
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural experiences for women. It can bring unparalleled joy and connection between mother and child. But women also experience intense challenges, frustration, and even sometimes pain during the first few days or even months of breastfeeding. Just like most things around parenting, breastfeeding is not a “one size fits all” kind of experience. It is a unique experience just like the uniqueness of each baby. Every single mother has her own breastfeeding story to tell. It comes with empowerment, responsibility, frustrations, and exhaustion the list is endless but non the less comes with a lot of fulfillment through the connection between mother and child.
“Before my son was born, I thought breastfeeding would be automatic and come naturally, so I didn’t research a lot about it. I had listened to stories from my sisters, friends, and even colleagues which were all very different. I didn’t know what to expect. All I could do was wait for my experience. My son was born full term and ready to conquer the world. The joy of holding him and just seeing him for the very first time was indescribable. We got to bond for a while before I could put him on the breasts to suckle. He latched immediately he was placed on my breasts. It was magical until he started suckling. Oh, the pain I felt! But still couldn’t let him out of it. This was how my journey started but I’m glad hours, days, and months that followed were bearable,” said Annette – Internal engagement and coordination at Amref.
It’s ironic how many expectant mothers look forward to their maternity leave days and at the same time dread going back to work after the lapse of the leave days. This period is usually so critical as it helps mother and child familiarize with each other. Time flies so fast and before you know it it’s back to work. Most employed women get to enjoy three months of maternity leave leaving them with three more months of juggling in between work and ensuring that baby is well fed.
According to World Health Organization, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. However, nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months—a rate that has not improved in two decades. This has mainly been contributed to by the fact that employed mums have to resume work after three months hence introducing alternatives such as formula to supplement breastmilk while they are off to work. However, using breast-milk substitutes for infants put children’s health at risk, both in the short- and long-term.
Amref Health Africa’s vision is to achieve lasting health change which includes promoting women’s reproductive and maternal health. Through this, Amref has enhanced its maternity policy by offering six months’ maternity leave, including annual leave to its employees. This policy has come in handy to many mothers at Amref. Prior to this, upon return to work after three months’ maternity leave, lactating mothers had the opportunity to use the well-equipped lactation room to relieve themselves and secure the precious liquid for their young ones.
“My breastfeeding journey has been wholesome. It has served as a bonding activity for me and my baby especially with the long maternity leave accorded. My baby has been able to get all the needed care and nutrition from breastfeeding. It is important that women practice this fundamental experience as it is beneficial to both mother and child,” says Cameline.
Reading and hearing about breastfeeding stories unites women and encourages them through the journey proving that no matter the circumstance, they are not alone. We commend Amref for supporting female employees in the childbearing age bracket and allowing them to thrive within their various roles while nurturing their young ones through breastfeeding without necessarily relying on substitutes to breast milk.