Tanzania: Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges for Working Mothers

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WORLD Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. Breastfeeding promotes better health for mothers and children alike.

Studies show that increasing breastfeeding to nearuniversal levels could save more than 800 000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months.

Breast milk is the perfect food for the baby since it saves lives, money and time. The cells, hormones and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby's growing needs.

Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of; asthma, leukemia (during childhood), obesity (during childhood), ear infections, diarrhoea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections and Type 2 diabetes among others.

Breastfeeding also helps a mother's health and healing following childbirth. It leads to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis among mothers.

It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20 000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.

Though Tanzania has made progress by getting the number of children who breast-feed to increase, many mothers still have to choose between their jobs and breastfeeding.

Those who can't afford to quit their jobs or face other barriers have to introduce formula milk or supplementary feeding before their babies are ready for weaning.

Whether you're going back to work, want to have extra help with feedings, or want to make sure you have breast milk for your baby if you are away for a few hours, you will need to pump and store your breast milk.

If you are unable to breastfeed your baby directly, make sure to pump during the times your baby would normally eat. If you need help to get your milk to start flowing without your baby there, you can apply a warm, moist cloth to your breasts, gently massage your breasts, gently rub your nipples and the milk will start flowing down. After each pumping, you can keep milk at room temperature.

Note that breast milk is OK for up to 4 hours after pumping at room temperature and is also OK in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

If you're not going to use refrigerated breast milk within 4 days of pumping, freeze it right after pumping. Breast milk does not need to be warmed but If you decide to warm it, keep the container sealed while warming, hold it under warm, not hot, running water, or set it in a container of water that is warm, not hot, Never put a bottle or bag of breast milk in the microwave. Test the temperature before feeding it to your baby by dropping some on your wrist.

The milk should feel warm, not hot. Remember to eat healthy while breastfeeding and drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

A common suggestion is to drink a glass of water or other beverage every time you breastfeed; limit drinks with added sugars, such as sodas and fruit drinks; drinking a moderate amount of coffee or other caffeinated beverages does not cause a problem for most breastfeeding babies.

Too much caffeine can make a baby fussy or have trouble sleeping. Some breastfeeding women may need a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Note that when your baby gets all of his/her food from breastfeeding, they also get what you eat, drink, and breathe. If you wouldn't want your baby to smoke, drink, or do drugs then you should not smoke, drink too much, or do drugs while pregnant or breastfeeding. Remember, planning ahead for your return to work can help ease the transition since it can help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over.

Some important tips include; Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a breast pump several days or weeks before you go back to work.

It can feel very different to pump breast milk compared to breastfeeding your baby but help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle or cup.

It may be helpful to have someone else give the bottle or cup to your baby at first. Wait at least a month after birth before introducing a bottle to your infant.

Your baby may be able to drink from a cup at 3 or 4 months old, give yourself some time off and when you arrive to pick up your baby, see if you can take time to breastfeed your baby right away to give your baby time to reconnect and adjust.

Note that some babies eat less during the day when they are away from their mothers and then nurse more often at night. This is called "reverse-cycling." Or babies may eat during the day and still nurse more often at night.

This may be more for the closeness with you that your baby craves. If your baby reverse-cycles, you may find that you do not need to pump as much milk for your baby during the day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends feeding babies on breast milk exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for the first six months and later for a year or two at least with other foods which should be started at 6 months of age, such as vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins.

Note that Exclusive breastfeeding has been shown to help infants recover faster from major illnesses such as pneumonia, with shorter hospital stays and decreased need of antibiotic changes than formula-fed babies, so let's advocate and enhance for breastfeeding to protect and guard our children who are the upcoming generation.

In the next article we will take a closer look at some of the common challenges with breastfeeding and what to do to overcome these challenges.

● Racheal Masibo, Assistant Lecturer at St John's University of Tanzania (SJUT)-School of Nursing, Dodoma. rackelmasibo@ yahoo.com, Mobile: 07 17 513598

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