Today I’m writing to those of you who are struggling with breastfeeding. Those who feel that maybe breastfeeding isn’t for you, or that you aren’t able to, or are feeling like you are spending most of the day crying about how breastfeeding is going because you have to go to work. You are doing a good job mama.

I remember my breastfeeding moments with tears in my eyes. Breastfeeding is not natural as most people think. When my child was handed to me at Mombasa Hospital, I froze. I thought breastfeeding is just positioning the baby on the boob and walah! Shock on me. There is something called latching that I had no idea about. Let alone hear about it. – and NO, don’t look at me like why did you not do your research- please NOT TODAY.

There was no milk, my baby cried and the gracious nurses took the baby away and fed her formula. I had a lot of help in the hospital. I felt a little like… oh, you know, a failure (postpartum hormones are not nice). Nurses told me it would be in my best interest to supplement with formula. So I did. What did I know? I met a lactation consultant a few hours before we exited the hospital and she said three words: supply and demand. Right. But even after my milk was coming in, breastfeeding was more difficult than I thought. My instinct was to nurse, but it took a toll on me mentally and physically. I felt restrained, and then I felt guilt for feeling restrained.

I went home and we were fine. A few weeks into it, my nipples cracked. I wanted to die. That is the most painful bit of it all. It is more painful than healing the C-section wound. I still wanted to breastfeed but the pain was too much. I CRIED and cried and cried for days. I had to supplement again when we were just getting there. Thank God for a partner who has always supported me. He would mix the formula himself and kept reminding me to apply my creams.  I tried all brands of formula because the child kept refusing. Luckily, we found one. Did anybody tell us the price of a formula tin? NO. It does not come cheap; Does the nipple cream come cheap? NO; Did anybody tell us about the colicky foods? GOOGLE

You know, Breastfeeding can be an extreme subject.  Either you’re frowned upon because you’re exposing yourself in public, or you’re exiled because your “unsuccessful” try just wasn’t good enough for someone. Regardless, we all know the amazing benefits, and while nursing just isn’t in the cards for everyone, your level of success can often be about the support system around you. I, personally, had to seek that encouragement. 

Then my maternity leave came to an end. Post-Partum depression had already kicked in and I hated myself. I felt like I was not doing enough. My milk dried up completely and you can imagine what that did to me mentally.

With two tots now, here are some of the lessons I have learnt along the way:

It takes time.

It most likely won’t happen overnight. In fact, it will most likely take weeks. And that’s okay. I promise you aren’t alone! Sometimes it’s helpful to find a breastfeeding support group (Like I had one- ‘MUMMY AND ME’ More power to you;’ where you can ask for help or share experiences with others!

Breastfeeding DOES hurt. 

It hurts a LOT. And YES, this is due to a poor latch. But here’s the thing…it’s rare babies come out latching perfectly. It takes a bit of time to get the hang of it and LEARN each other. Babies’ mouths are all different sizes, and our boobs are all different shapes and sizes. And once engorgement hits, it changes things up again (which usually happens when we get home from the hospital with no help!). But until we figure it out together, we will most likely experience some pain from the process. 

It’s emotional.

Hormones are ablaze with breastfeeding, and emotions can run wild. I remember with my second born, the hospital gave me cut syringe to pull the nipples out because they were inverted (How now?) and I hated that thing. It made me CRY. Again…irrational. But that’s what happens when you’re sleep deprived with raging hormones! There are many emotions that come with breastfeeding, especially the weaning process. No one tells us this!

It’s NOT easy.

I’ll never understand when people say breastfeeding is easy.  If it comes easy to you, that’s amazing! But it surely hasn’t for me or many other mamas I know. And this is what NO ONE tells you going into it. I feel like if I knew it was going to be hard and has realistic expectations, I might not have been as stressed. If breastfeeding is what you’re choosing to do, get help from lactations consultants 

It’s okay if you choose not to for any of these reasons. Or can’t at all.

Fed is best. Fed is best. Fed is best. We do not drive this home enough to new moms. It’s okay if you give breastfeeding a shot and decide it’s not for you. It’s okay if you decide you don’t want to try at all. Some moms deal with low milk production and aren’t able to breastfeed, and some babies end up in the NICU with mom unable to breastfeed. Whatever the situation, as long as your baby is fed, that’s all that matters. And we need to stop judging moms on the decisions they make to care for their babies. 

YOU ARE DOING WELL. KEEP GOING

To all the women who feel empowered to feed their baby already and have no problem standing up for themselves… all the freaking power to you. I couldn’t love you more.

 

WHAT DOES THE KENYAN LAW SAY ABOUT BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS? – ALN Kenya

The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill, 2019 (the Bill) was introduced to the National Assembly on 18 October 2019. It requires employers to provide breastfeeding mothers with the time and space to freely express breastmilk, prescribes minimum standards for lactation stations and introduces penalties for non-compliant employers.

Current Law on Breastfeeding at the Workplace

The Health Act, (Act No. 21 of 2017) (the Health Act) already requires all Kenyan employers regardless of size or nature of work to establish lactation stations in the workplace for employees expressing milk. The Health Act requires the lactation stations to be equipped with the necessary equipment and facilities, including handwashing equipment, refrigerators or appropriate cooling facilities, electrical outlets for breast pumps, a small table and comfortable seats.

Following the enactment of the Health Act, the Ministry of Health published “Guidelines for Securing a Breastfeeding Friendly Environment at The Work Place” in May 2018. The guidelines provide direction to public and private institutions on how to create breastfeeding-friendly workplaces.

The Breastfeeding Mothers Bill, 2019

As indicated above, the Bill introduces a stronger statutory framework to protect, promote and support breastfeeding especially among working mothers. Below are the salient provisions of the Bill.

  1. Lactation Stations

Employers should already be aware that there is a legal requirement under the Health Act to provide lactation stations for breastfeeding mothers.

The Bill now provides minimum standards for the lactation stations and provides that every station shall:

  1. be shielded from view and be free from intrusion from co-workers;
  2. be clean, quiet, private and warm;
  3. not be a bathroom or toilet;
  4. have a lockable door;
  5. have a washbasin;
  6. have a fridge for storing expressed milk;
  7. have a provision for an electric outlet and lighting; and
  8. have a chair, table and a clean space to store equipment.

In addition to the minimum standards, the Bill requires employers to provide a physical environment that is safe for the baby as well as appropriate programs that develop a baby’s cognitive, emotional, social and language abilities.

It is important to note that failure to meet the minimum standards in respect of the lactation stations would attract a fine not exceeding KES 500,000 (approx. USD 5,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both.

  1. Breastfeeding Time and Flexible Work Arrangements

The Bill requires employers to allow a reasonable break time to a lactating mother for purposes of breastfeeding the baby or expressing milk. The break time shall be considered to be within working hours and shall not exceed forty minutes every four hours worked.

In addition to the above, the Bill allows employees to apply for a flexible work arrangement to breastfeed or express milk.

The flexible work arrangement shall specify:

  1. the number of hours the employee is to work;
  2. the type and number of work assignments; and
  3. the exact location of where the employee is to work.

The employer is required to respond in writing within 14 days of receipt of such an application.

  1. Baby Changing Facility in Public Spaces

In addition to the protections for breastfeeding mothers, the Bill introduces an interesting requirement for public spaces. It provides that any “person who owns, leases, or rents a public or private building accessible to the public, which has a facility which has a minimum occupancy of fifty persons, shall install a baby changing facility”.

The baby changing facility shall be clean and private, have a baby changing table, have a waste bucket and have signs indicating its location.

Any contravention of the provisions of the Bill will attract a fine not exceeding KES 1,000,000 (approx. USD 10,000) and/or imprisonment for not more than one year.