JOY WANJA MURAYA is a health journalist who has won several awards for her outstanding health articles. And she recently became a new mum!
Before then, Joy had written articles on maternal health issues – pregnancy and breastfeeding included, so I was curious about her experiences; practical experiences.
With regard to breastfeeding, I actually had a little glimpse into it as I remember a few months ago, she needed help and called me up, requesting if I could share with her the contacts of Josie M. Karoki, a lactation expert. So when Joy’s baby turned six months old this August, I requested her to pen a guest post sharing her breastfeeding journey.
So when Joy’s baby turned six months old this August, I requested her to pen a guest post sharing her breastfeeding journey. Here is Joy’s story, in her own words.
“The closest I interacted with exclusive breastfeeding was through the health stories I write every other day as a science and health journalist.
But I was certain that when I got my child I would make sure I practiced the gospel I preached in my articles. When the time came, it was not so easy but I am proud that I made it two weeks ago when our daughter Shantelle, turned six months.
I was taking my Masters in Public Health course at Moi University, enrolled in the evening classes. During the last semester, I was the ‘pregnant student’ so it was conspicuous to the lecturers if I missed classes. But I soldiered on and God gave me the grace to sit exams in December last year while seven months pregnant.
But! I had to face the giant in the room on whether I would resume the next semester that would begin in January and run through to June 2013.
January came and at nine months pregnant I would report to work and at 5.30 pm would duck-walk for my evening classes. So great was the support from my colleagues that there was a common joke that because most of my classmates are doctors and nurses, in case of an emergency, they would help me deliver and continue with class right there.
I gave birth in February and the course coordinator said I could take a break and resume classes when I was ‘comfortable.’
One month after delivery I resumed evening classes. So tough was the decision that after a discussion with my hubby, Martin Muraya, he encouraged me to finalise with school because I was in my last semester. During the maternity leave, I would spend the entire day at home with baby and leave for my evening classes in the city centre at 5.00 pm. I had earlier began preparing for this by expressing as early as the second week after delivery thus my milk stock was more than ample to cover the duration I would be in class in the evenings. My freezer looked like a milk—parlour; of breast milk though.
I also trained Shantelle to take expressed milk a week before I planned to resume classes and if this would not work there was the option on cup and spoon method and if this did not work too, I would have called off the semester and stayed home. Amazingly she took to the bottle very comfortably and I trained my house help on how to feed her for the period I was away from 5.00 pm to 8.30 pm. My husband would also be around when I was in class to ensure baby was comfortable as Mummy tried to concentrate in class….
Let me say that I understood 80 per cent of the class discussions but I frequently dashed out of class to call home only to be assured that the baby is more than fabulous. I also had very understanding lecturers so though the classes were every weekday, I attended class either twice or thrice a week.
To increase and maintain my supply, I stayed hydrated and ate well and pumped at least four times a day including at 3 a.m. Luckily once Shan slept around 9.30 pm she would wake up once to breastfeed at 4 a.m with eyes closed then resume usingizi… From four months she sleeps through the night and dropped the 4 a.m. feed so I have the peace of night to express and store.
With an average of 250 ml per sitting, I managed to pump one litre per day as I was expressing and saving milk for consumption when I was out for evening classes and for later when I would resume work in May when she was three months. I resumed work when Shantelle was three months and with my examinations three weeks away, I really got the support from hubby, house help and relatives that I could sit end of semester exams.
I would express in the office during the day and at 5 pm take the milk to my neighbor at 5 pm to deliver it home as I dashed for evening classes until 9 pm. But nothing prepared me for the decline in my milk supply as exams approached because of the stress that comes with revising. I took two weeks leave; one week to prepare for exams and the next week to sit the papers.
My milk supply reduced drastically during this time as my daughters consumption increased at four months old. I remember calling lactation expert Josie M. Karoki and she encouraged me to reduce my stress levels by eating and staying hydrated and getting enough sleep. We talked about formula with Josie but I wanted that to be a last resort. I was determined to get to six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
I am a trans-nighting guru when reading for exams and here I was faced with the choice of reading for exams or sleeping through the night to maintain my milk supply. I dropped reading through the night to get enough sleep and opted to heavily rely on discussion groups during the day to prepare for my exam the next day. During exam days I would attend the paper from 9 a.m to 1 pm in the city centre, rush home for lunch and to breastfeed then back for a discussion group at 3pm to revise for the next days paper.
Those 14 days of the exam period were the toughest but I pulled through and my daughter didn’t taste formula. When I resumed work, I continued expressing and I still do and I am determined to express at work until she turns one year….
Looking at her growth curve, I am glad I decided to exclusively breastfeed. It’s possible for many more working mothers, even those that have to juggle with adult learning. Now that I’m done with school, I now go home earlier by 6pm and I can’t believe that the stressful period is over!
Schoolwork, working, a newborn and a husband, with a great support network, it’s possible.”
Thank you Joy for sharing your inspirational story – Maryanne.