You’re doing “baby friendly” abi??!!! (Exclusively Breastfeeding in an African Household)

So I was home (Nigeria) visiting my hubby and parents two months ago for about six weeks and this phrase plagued my entire trip. Btw, “baby friendly” means breastfeeding. Yes people, I have been teased for exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) my son. I don’t even know where to start this rant from, like honestly it blows my mind. What else should I be doing??? I’m not commended or admired for it, I’m teased and made fun of. Anyone that EBF  knows how much of a sacrifice this is and the toll it takes on you. It’s not a thing of convenience at all… your life is glued to a small baby for 6 months to a year or even longer depending on your commitment. You can’t just run out the house at a moment’s notice, for every where you plan on going you need to think about where you’d be able to nurse. You second guess every item of clothing you put on, the type of bra you have on, hours in between feeds so you don’t get engorged. There are so many cons to EBF, the list is endless. But the pros easily outweigh the cons for me – it’s the best thing you can give your child. Once I remind myself of this fact the cons list becomes so insignificant. 

Breastfeeding is hard!!! So many mums try and give up because they just can’t hack it or are physically unable to. My son’s latch was wrong for his first 6 weeks, the pain was excruciating! I remember how the hair on the back of my neck would stand every time he would start to stir from sleep because it was time for a feed or if anyone dared to wake him. I would do quick pants for the first 2 mins of his feed because of the pain. My nipples were constantly raw and sore. With all this I was still determined to breastfeed so I stuck with it and got help where I could and eventually my son just learnt to get it right himself. We both become pros together. In the first few weeks of his birth I felt like a failure for not being able to get it right but I stuck with it stubbornly because I wanted to give my son the best. So to have gone through that with no one motivating me but myself only to be ridiculed by family set me seething silently. Just to be clear, I’m not opposed to formula feeding either. I had initially planned on mix feeding – formula and BM – but when he wasn’t latching correctly I stopped bottle feeding to avoiding confusing him …. big mistake (rant for another day). My son also never took to formula so EBF was the only option for me. I would have been happy to do both breastfeeding and bottle feeding with expressed milk but it was not to be. If it isn’t boob then he ain’t interested.

Now if I was just being ridiculed and teased I wouldn’t mind too much, sticks and stones right? But it’s the ganging up and telling me that my son is not as healthy as other babies because he isn’t chubby that riles me up to no end! Back home (Nigeria), being chubby is the only way to show that a child is healthy, never mind the baby’s actual weight! If he isn’t a chunky baby then nothing else matters. My son’s weight is right on TRACK, I’ve measured him against his percentile and checked in with medical professionals but what do they know ๐Ÿ˜’. Just because I was chubby as a baby doesn’t mean my son has to be! Plus he isn’t 100% me, he’s half his father too who might not have been chubby as a kid! I’m was constantly being badgered to start him on solids at 4 months or sooner and give him water because he can’t possibly be getting all his needs from breast milk alone. And God forbid you tell them the advice you received from your midwife or seasoned pediatrician because apart from dedicating most of their lives to this field what do they know??? Like come on! Since when did waiting till 6 months to wean become a western thing? And I wasn’t even going to wait till 6 months to wean but the fact that I was being dictated to on when I needed to start my son on solids, regardless of what my plans were as the mother made me want to wait till 6 months just to be defiant๐Ÿ˜ ! 

And even though I know I’m right, as a new mum the pressure gets to you and the temptation to give in can overwhelm you most times. But I stayed strong and did it my way. It’s hard when it’s family giving you advice; you don’t want to offend anyone but you also don’t want to be a pushover when it comes to your child. Plus, technically they do know more than you, but you are a mum now and no one will ever know your child better than you so stand your ground! Don’t get me wrong, I know their way does work- it was tried on me and I’m fairly normal ๐Ÿ™ƒ but there isn’t just the ONE right way to do things. Yes, I could take their approach and do things more traditionally, to be honest the convenience of it all is tempting, but it’s not what I want. It’s my decision and I’m well aware of the sacrifice required and happy to make it. 

Please, stop with the teasing, even if it’s done in love- it messes with our confidence as new mums. This stuff is hard enough on its own without people making fun of our efforts – we don’t exactly have it all figured out. And, there is no competition to prove that African babies are stronger because they start on solids earlier – even if there was one, I’m not interested! Let them call me bougie, or a Google mum, I don’t care and you shouldn’t either! Your family might think you rude and stubborn but none of that will matter because your child will be safe and healthy and you would know in your heart that you’ve done right by your baby. We also need to remind ourselves that this is our first child, it could take a while for family and friends to acknowledge and respect us in our new role as mums. 

If “baby friendly” is your jam right now then stick to it, and if it’s formula feeding or mix feeding then stand your ground. Wean when your baby when he/she is good and ready, if you want to wait till 6 months or start earlier like I did, it’s all gucci boo! We do the best we can in a role that is taught by life alone, and I think we are all doing a fantastic job! 
Rant over ๐Ÿ˜Š.

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