Nurturing Through Challenges: A Nutritionist’s Breastfeeding Journey

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Breastfeeding holds immense significance for Chj, a conduit through which she nourishes her baby with unwavering confidence in its quality and safety.

In an intimate conversation, Chj Chikanda, a dedicated Nutritionist with the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe, opens up about her breastfeeding experience while managing her demanding career. Her narrative sheds light on working mothers’ hurdles, underscoring their unwavering resolve to provide the best for their children.

Breastfeeding holds immense significance for Chj, a conduit through which she nourishes her baby with unwavering confidence in its quality and safety. “It’s a moment when I feel truly blessed to be a mom to such an adorable little person,” she shares, a twinkle of affection in her eyes.

WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand –as often as the child wants, day and night.

Chj’s journey wasn’t devoid of challenges. Following an emergency c-section, her newborn was admitted to the ICU, delaying the commencement of breastfeeding. Nevertheless, Chj’s determination and the hospital staff’s support enabled her to establish lactation once her baby was out of the ICU. Despite difficulties, they persevered to stimulate her baby’s suckling reflex, as Chj diligently expressed milk and fed him using a cup.

The art of balancing her role as a Nutritionist with breastfeeding is a complex endeavour. “Juggling work and breastfeeding often feels like a tightrope,” Chj admits candidly. To manage, she meticulously expressed milk, ensuring a sufficient supply during work hours. Yet, her baby’s occasional colicky fussiness added a layer of complexity to this delicate dance.

Armed with her breast pump, Chj navigated her professional commitments while keeping up with her breastfeeding routine. However, she acknowledges the workplace environment wasn’t always optimal, with shared spaces and occasional discomfort among colleagues.

Chj’s career, punctuated by frequent travel, presented another challenge. Manoeuvring trips with an infant and caregiver brought logistical and financial complexities into sharp relief.

Drawing from the techniques she imparts to others, Chj discovered she could cope using strategies like hand-expressing breast milk and experimenting with diverse breastfeeding positions. Her personal experience defied the myth that expressing milk diminishes supply – in fact, it often stimulates an increase in production. Chj also defied the conventional notion that breast size directly correlates with milk production, with her modestly sized breasts yielding ample milk.

Among the various challenges, Chj identifies coping with her baby’s colic as the most daunting. While prescribed medicines offer temporary relief, traditional remedies provide a potential alternative. Chj candidly highlights the contrast between established medical approaches and the indigenous wisdom of conventional remedies.

In her quest for enhanced support systems, Chj advocates for dedicated breastfeeding spaces at workplaces and conference venues, echoing the World Health Organization’s recommendation for breastfeeding-friendly environments.

Set against Zimbabwe’s nutritional challenges, Chj’s journey resonates as a poignant call to action. Alarming statistics – nearly one out of four children stunted, 3% wasted, and a concerning prevalence of overweight– highlight the gravity of the situation. Micronutrient deficiencies and low birthweights also contribute to malnutrition in Zimbabwe. The uneven distribution of malnutrition, particularly prominent in Manicaland Province, further accentuates the urgency of addressing these issues.

Breastfeeding is vital to early childhood nutrition and maternal health, providing numerous short-term and long-term benefits to both mother and child.

Breastfeeding leads to better early childhood development for the child, including improved cognitive development, learning and educational attainment, and productivity and wages in later life, contributing to an improved economy.

Chj’s narrative highlights the actions needed to support Zimbabwe’s mothers to breastfeed – particularly for the first six months of life exclusively.

Legislation for parental leave must be enforced; employers must make provisions to support mothers to breastfeed in the workplace; parents must have access to unbiased, evidence-based information on breastfeeding and its benefits; and practical support must be available to establish breastfeeding immediately after birth.

Amidst many adversities, Chj’s journey stands as a testament to the resilience of working mothers and the imperative of robust support systems. Her narrative reinforces the significance of enabling these mothers to provide the optimal foundation for their children’s future.