Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Breastfeeding 101

Breastfeeding is one of the most controversial topics in ‘Mama Land’. When asked if I breastfeed, I get constipated and disgusted faces at times and delighted faces with a “Bravo” other times.Abhorred by many and cherished by others, like myself. According to The World Health Organization, globally less than 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.

Breastfeeding is recommended by both the WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first six months of a baby’s life. Away from the health organizations' recommendations and from one breastfeeding mother to you. Breastfeeding is the only natural and best method to nurture your little one.

Yes it will be hard at first, I have to admit, it might hurt, irritate and drive you crazy at times. That's why it's important to know that breastfeeding is learnt and isn’t an easy practice, especially in the first two months that will be quite challenging in fact.However as soon as the baby masters his latching skills and a rough routine is established, it WILL get much much easier. 

When my baby was almost 4 weeks old, I wondered what a fool I was to choose breast feeding but now as he nearly reaches his sixth month, I thank God for never giving up. 

My mother was constantly encouraging me and reassuring me that it will get better, and it’s perfect today. That’s why it is vital to have people around you that support you through it, be it a family member a friend or even the mothers of the UAEMUMS group.

There are some breast feeding support groups here in the UAE as well, such as: La Leche League in the UAE, BreastFeeding Friends and BreastFeeding Q&A .I also stumbled upon this upcoming event on Facebook “Breastfeeding Q&A's nextfirst-Monday-of-the-month meet-up” on the 7th of April 2014 that you can attend for further support.

Moreover, the new child protection law by the FNC’s Health, Labour and Social Affairs committee in Abu Dhabi acknowledges that every child has the right to breastfeed for two years.
Thus it’s fair enough to describe the overall society in UAE to be breastfeeding supportive/tolerant. We are privileged here to have baby-friendly malls that provide decent areas for baby care and nursing, unlike nursing women in other countries (Victoria's Secret incident). One of my favorites are the baby rooms in The Dubai Mall. (The AC should be stronger though)

Talking from experience, I’ve asked the managers of several restaurants in Dubai permission to sit in a distant table to breastfeed and their reactions where constructive. 

Just pick a discrete spot and feed your hungry baby, using a nursing cover* will definitely make you feel more comfortable while feeding. Car feeds are great too, for you will reach the desired destination with a sated baby ;)

The First Feed:

WHO also recommends that babies must be breastfed colostrum within the first hour after birth. Besides the importance of Colostrum to the baby, suckling at first will stimulate your breasts to produce more milk and signal to your uterus to contract as well.

As the baby latches on the first few times, don’t worry about him ‘not getting enough’ little drops at first are enough for his petite stomach. “What colostrum lacks in volume it makes up for in power,” said Jan Barger a lactation consultant to Baby Center.

 Colostrum also known as the “liquid gold” is a thick yellowish substance produced prior to breast milk.
Why so important? Because colostrum is highly concentrated with nutrients , triggers baby’s first bowel movement (first dark stool), rich in secretory immunoglobulin A (an antibody that protects baby against infections of the throat, lungs and intestines) and stacked with carbs, protein and vitamin K.

Working mothers and breastfeeding:

Let’s face it, not all mothers are stay-at-home mothers, in fact 54.3% of mothers globally are working mothers according to Statistic Brain.

 That’s why obviously breastfeeding is an issue here, but hold on, when there’s a will there’s a way right?
Inoka Kumuduni Rathnayake is an example of a full-time nurse in Dubai that successfully and exclusively breastfed her 6-month-old baby through pumping breast milk at work! With the help of her mother- in-law, she was determined to nurture her baby the best way.
She admitted that it’s not a piece of cake: Finding time to pump at work, storing it in the work’s fridge and then transferring it home in a cooler bag. She was also pumping at night to ensure that her baby gets enough milk while she’s away. But as I said when there’s a will there IS a way!
“I’m so happy and proud of myself for giving my baby breast milk,” Inoka said “I will not stop at 6 months, I will continue breastfeeding,” she added. From one mother to another, I salute her and all the super mothers that have done the same.

 Let’s learn together the benefits of Breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother:

     Benefits of Breastfeeding for the baby:

  • Breastfed babies suffer from less stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections and meningitis (Plus they occur less severely if happened)
  • Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia (The two primary causes of child mortality worldwide as ascribed by the WHO)
  • Feeling secure and comfortable next to mommy’s heart beat and warmth.
  •  Breastfeeding builds a strong physical and emotional bond between mother and baby.
  • Breast milk is of the right temperature for the baby.
  • Less chance for baby to get constipated
  • Less chance of developing eczema
  • Breast milk adapts to meet your baby's changing needs

Benefits of Breastfeeding for the mother:

  • Reduces risks of breast cancer
  • Reduces risk of ovarian cancer
  • Helps you return to your pre-pregnancy weight faster (nursing exclusively helps you burn about 300 to 500 extra calories a day; however some bodies react differently)
  • Lighter baby bag, ya’ll know how heavy that bag is already!
  • Less bottle cleaning and sterilizing.
  • Cost effective (Women’s Health US Department estimated that formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year)
  • Availability (Anytime, anywhere)
  • Physically watching your baby outgrow your arms. Beautiful. 
Myth Busting:

- Size of breasts has nothing to do with how much milk you produce.

-Colostrum and milk in general is not a limited supply. (It’s a supply and demand procedure)

- Breast milk does contain enough iron for the baby's needs

- A breastfeeding mother shouldn’t eat more in order to make enough milk

- Breast feeding is not a contraceptive method

-  Breastfeeding women can take birth control pills (Doctor’s specific prescription)

-  Fewer than one in a thousand women are actually unable to breastfeed, and genetics has nothing to do with it. (Failure to kick start breastfeeding in the first crucial weeks of baby’s life)

- Breastfeeding isn’t the only blame for slightly changing your breasts shape, pregnancy and growing old contribute as much. (Accept it and move on)

To all super mums out there, give breastfeeding a try, any amount has a positive effect but the longer you breastfeed the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits are for you and your baby!
Kisses to the little ones! :)

*Nursing Cover: Is a life-saver piece of cloth that will ensure your feeding to be discrete in public. It’s extremely effective on day outs and gatherings. Here’s a DIYnursing cover tutorial.


  1. so true ,initially it drove me crazy but now m use to it.Really loved your blog!!

  2. Brilliant blog!
    I have one of these breast feeding shields and it is God sent!
    Wish we had more support for breast feeding in Lebanon.

    1. Rayan, if you're on Facebook, have you joined any of the Lebanese breastfeeding support groups? We have Breastfeeding in Lebanon, Mama to mama Beirut breastfeeding support, La Leche League Lebanon, LAECD...and some other related groups. Also, there's a newly established NGO called Lactica. Please feel free to join us!

    2. Thanks for that! This sounds great. I don't live in Lebanon, otherwise I would have definitely joined you. I'm not sure if you already do, but I think the best way to encourage and promote bf is by being allowed in maternity wards and get woman more aware of these groupsAnd bf in general.

    3. I pressed publish too early....
      The key is to get in there before the woman gives up bf all together. Encourage skin to skin and a bf straight after birth, teach how to latch on...

  3. Good post Soumayya! ive had all sorts of difficulties when BF my two girls...but i almost got through ALH!

  4. Thank you Saba Khan, Rayan Hunt and Ice Princezz! Your comments make my day :)