I breastfeed continuously for three and a half years
It is common to hear women being told not to breast feed when pregnant. The thinking is that doing so will affect the growth of the unborn baby. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, mothers and experts say it is safe and merely a myth.
A mother has revealed how she breastfeed for three and a half years. She had in-between delivered a baby and continued breastfeeding both babies till each of the babies had stopped taking breast milk on their own.
Mrs Amber Sijuade, a mother of 3, found she was pregnant again when her daughter was seven months old. She had continued to breastfeed her though many people who noticed she was pregnant asked her to stop.
“I did not know that was quite a taboo. In fact, it was something I did not think about because I knew at the time that she was too young to stop breastfeeding,” Mrs Sijuade said.
Mrs Sijuade, Mrs Faith Akinrelere and other women shared their breastfeeding experiences at the “Breast is Best!” programme of the J-Rapha Hospital and Maternity Limited to celebrate mothers. It was to encourage all women to choose exclusive breastfeeding and inaugurate the hospitals’ breastfeeding club.
Rather than depriving her daughter of breastmilk, Amber made sure that her nutrition was enough to support her as a pregnant woman and a breastfeeding mother at the same time.
Amber’s little boy was born while she was till breastfeeding her one year and 4 months old girl and continued breastfeeding her for nine months after the birth of her brother.
“I had made a commitment to breastfeeding her for at least two years. She was one year and four months when my youngest son was born, and it was still clear to me that she was not ready to stop breastfeeding at that time,” she declared.
Now imagine Amber breastfeeding her new baby and her older daughter that is one year four months older at the same time. But it happened.
She added: “If you are in my house, you will see that there are times, both of them will be sucking at the same time. They are very close. People who do not know anything about all of that will call them twins.”
Amber’s son who just clocked two years and four months has just stopped breastfeeding almost naturally on his own.
According to her, “Initially, people’s comments were on breastfeeding while pregnant but later they were looking at her. They will be abusing her, asking why she was still sucking and not leaving the breast for her brother.
“I continued breastfeeding her. I did not want the birth of this new baby to be the reason that she stopped sucking. I did not want her to have anything against her brother so as not to create some kind of tension between the two.
“Because I did not stop breastfeeding the two, from the time that she was born to the time the second baby was weaned, I was breastfeeding for about three and a half years at a stretch.
“It is just a matter of commitment and determination. We are all capable of this and the results are fantastic.”
Moreover, she added that children on their own outgrew breastfeeding, and so women should stop thinking that they will have difficulty weaning their babies if they were allowed to breastfeed for at least two years as recommended by World Health Organisation.
Mrs Faith Akinrelere’s 15-month-old baby spent lesser time visiting the hospital. Even during the teething phase, all that was noticed was tooth erupting without the usual diarrhoea that his older siblings always experienced.
“The benefit of breastfeeding that caught my attention was that it builds baby’s immune system. That meant that if I breastfeed my baby she will not fall ill every other month,” she added.
Akinrelere, a mother of four, had resolved to exclusively breastfeed her fourth baby after her search on benefits of breastmilk on the internet. All her other children had stopped taking breast milk before seven months on their own.
According to Mrs Akinrelere, “Unlike my other children, she looks so healthy, big and everything is very perfect with her. Each time people see her, they ask me, ‘are you sure this is your baby’.”
Moreover, Mrs Akinrelele was also breastfeeding while pregnant for months. Her second baby was seven months old when she knew she was three months pregnant.
Medical Director J-Rapha Hospital and Maternity Limited, Dr Olaide Amotsuka, said a pregnant woman can breastfeed her baby because of the feedback mechanism between the brain and breast.
She said Mrs Sijuade was able to breastfeed her two babies of different ages because the brain was able to send an appropriate message to the breast on the breast milk volume and quality to produce for the sucking child.
“For instance, I know that some people will say that if the other baby had been sucking until the new one is born, there would be no colostrum. That gets people bothered.
“Again, the baby in the womb the brain know that the baby is there. When labour starts, the hormone that makes labour to start will send a message to the breast to produce colostrum.”
Dr Amotsuka declared that breastmilk is natural and the best food for baby’s development and the act of breastfeeding also gets a child to bond with her mother.
She added :“A child who bonds with the mother has a better self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-esteem starts at home and it is something that develops on a daily basis. Breastfeeding is a way to develop this and the longer you do it, the better.”
The medical expert stated that even when a child is still breastfeeding after one and a half years, it is no more intense, adding “you keep breastfeeding because you want the child to be emotionally strong.”
Though women are told to breastfeed on demand, Dr Amotsuka said there is a way a woman can tailor her programme to meet her baby’s need.
She added: “When you say harsh words to push the child away because the time he is asking for breastmilk is not appropriate, you are dampening the self-esteem of that child. All these things are adding up to their self-esteem.”
Even as a nursing mother and a nurse at the University Teaching hospital that runs shifts, Mrs Folasade Olatunji said that women can breastfeed their babies successfully.
“I had a baby that is about seven months and I was pregnant and was running shift at the hospital and was still breastfeeding. I went through all that and still did exclusive breastfeeding. Aside from being a breastfeeding advocate, as a nurse, I know its benefits.
“Sometimes my husband would beg me, give this baby formula and go and sleep, but because I wanted to see whether what I am teaching I could practice, I still struggled to do it,” declared Mrs Olatunji.