In today’s post I’d like to share my experiences as a new mum concerning exclusive breastfeeding vs mixed feeding. Whatever reason the mother deems fit for her and her baby (without society having a say as to whether one is right or wrong) Let’s just say I had a “challenge” with breastfeeding and I had to formula feed within the 1st 3 months which was really hard for me psychologically because I’d had this image of being earth-mother goddess. I’d had a great pregnancy and natural birth with some minor complications so being confronted by these challenges was a real shock to my system…by the way this was with my 1st baby. As I was coming to terms with that I also had to contend with society’s expectations about my skills as a Mom and all of a sudden everyone had an opinion! No one except my Mom really understood what I was going through. “You must breastfeed till the child is a year-old”, “It is the tradition of our mothers” …and yet so many women have undocumented challenges with breastfeeding in Nigeria. According to certain statistics only 13.1% of mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding till 6 months! Some mothers have health issues that make it unsafe to breastfeed, while some just don’t have the social support. In some cases, mothers do not understand the value of breast milk. Some mothers may be embarrassed to breastfeed, while others give up if they are not successful because, for e.g. the bay does not latch on properly. In some of these instances counselling and training can overcome the problem, but in some cases it cannot. Back to the matter, I had to figure out which formula to choose in order to get the maximum benefit to my baby because it was truly the least I could do. Then I realized there was a whole new world to discover. I had to understand about staging – which formula for which age. I also found out that formula is actually modified cow’s milk, with manufacturers removing excess protein, for example, and adding some missing key nutrients like iron. I learnt that there is non-milk based formula, for those with cow’s milk allergy. And there is a special formula for premature babies, who need to gain weight fast. Some formulas are pre-digested to make it easier for baby to absorb them, and some are thickened with starch to help baby keep it down. So much to learn!…yet no one really talks about it because they assume you will breastfeed successfully. I am in no way against breastfeeding nor am I saying thumbs up to formula. As a Mom and a parent what it boils down to is making sure my baby is well nourished, well-loved and well-protected. The biggest, strongest and most important argument for breastfeeding is simply that it is the best. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life improves the growth, health and survival status of a new-born, and is one of the most natural and best forms of preventive medicine. EBF plays a pivotal role in determining the optimal health and development of infants, and is associated with a decreased risk for many early life diseases and conditions, including otitis media, respiratory tract infection, diarrhoea and early childhood obesity. It is how nature intended that we feed our babies. And I do not doubt that. I am all for it, as long as you can. But what happens if you cannot? According to those against formula, it seems to be because in developing countries there are issues with access to clean water and literacy levels of the Mother (can she follow exact measurements and directions for preparing it?) These are valid concerns but what about the fact that a more cosmopolitan Africa has emerged where in the urban cities those issues are greatly reduced? Shouldn’t mothers take advantage of the options that are available to them if they have challenges or should they suffer and smile and squeeze water out of a stone (pun intended) and potentially harm their babies? In many places maternity leave is shockingly short, and often unpaid, despite the fact that women make up almost half of the labour force. How many women have to choose between staying home to breastfeed and earning a salary? In addition, the workplace is not conducive for working moms to tend to their kids. Some moms pump and store for Dad or Grandma or nanny to give to the baby, and that’s already one part removed from the real bonding process. Some moms just can’t produce enough milk and submit to postpartum depression because they can’t cope with the guilt and shame of ‘letting their baby down’, by resorting to use formula, as if it’s such a terrible thing. At this juncture I would say that the well-being of the baby should be paramount. And there should be more focus on educating mums to understand why they should choose their babies nutrition wisely. Being a good mom is a lot of hard work from the start , and mums need support when they cannot breastfeed, not condemnation. What’s your story? Let us know by commenting below, or join the conversation on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Moms-World-Nigeria/754150684609591 Visit http://www.mumsworldafrica.com for information and advice on pregnancy, new-born and toddler.