#Baby101: Breastfeeding basics in Kenya


Written by Joan Thatiah for MumsVillage


Few experiences are more overwhelming than that moment when a mother breastfeeds her child for the first time.  I had an easy breastfeeding experience and I was lucky to exclusively breastfeed my son for six months. Most mothers want to breastfeed but not all are as lucky. Sometimes despite having the will, it doesn’t go as planned.

Esther Kimani, a Nairobi based Doula, says that breastfeeding failure can happen for various reasons. From her experience, most women experience failed lactation because of lack of proper support at birth. People assume that a mother will know what to do. Your baby is born with a reflex to suckle but you need to position him well for breastfeeding. Failing to do this might lead to cracked or sore nipples or engorged breasts that make it hard to breastfeed. If you don’t’t know what to do, reach out to a lactation consultant or your doctor. Breastfeeding support counselors are well-trained and very sympathetic. They can come to you at hospital or at your home, and they will help you work out these initial difficulties in your breastfeeding journey.

Poor nutrition is also likely to cause failed lactation. Fix this by drinking more liquids in the form of water, teas, juices or soups. Certain medication administered during labor or if part of the placenta remains in the uterus after birth are other factors that may interfere with milk production. A baby with a cleft palate may also have difficulties latching on. Particularly large or inverted nipples also makes breastfeeding hard. Your Doula or Breastfeeding Support Counsellor can help you successfully work through these issues.

You may feel frustrated because of these problems breastfeeding.  It is normal, allow yourself to feel it but do not beat yourself up. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad mother. Also remember that breastfeeding is not the only way you can bond with your child.


For Stella Mugo, a banker and a mother of two, her first experience of breastfeeding was seamless. The second time round, she breast fed for three weeks before she had to be rushed back to the hospital following complications arising from her Caeserian surgery. She was here for a month during which breast feeding was interrupted. When she was discharged, she was too weak to breastfeed. Her son who had already been introduced to formula continued with it.

“I worried about missing out on the bonding like I’d done with my first child,” she says.

To counter this, each time she bottle fed him, she assumed that breastfeeding position. It allowed them to look into each others’ eyes as he fed.

When she couldn’t produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed her newborn, Teresia Auma, a mother of one resorted to wet nursing. By luck, her younger sister had given birth around the same time. She had enough milk and was glad to breastfeed both children. Teresia was diagnosed with a grandular tissue problem. She is likely to have the same problem if she has another child. She plans to synchronise her second child with her sister’s.

With her first child, Violet Ithia a mother of two from Imara Daima Nairobi had a slow flow of milk. With no support or professional advice, she introduced the baby to cow’s milk a few days after being discharged from the hospital. She could not afford to buy formula so she took to diluting the cow milk.

“The baby got used to the fast flow of the bottle and thereafter refused to breastfeed. With my second child, I was keen not to introduce the bottle so soon.  I increased my liquid consumption to increase my flow instead,” she says. Note that although it may have worked as a solution for this mum, cow’s milk or dairy products are not recommended until your baby is over 12 months old. This is due to the high incidence of lactose intolerance and other potential allergic reactions.

Breastfeeding tips

  • Eat for one but drink for two. Eating more will just make it more difficult for your baby to digest what they are taking in. Drink more instead.
  • Take to expressing milk when your baby is not breastfeeding. This tricks your brain into thinking that you are feeding two children and stimulates the body into producing a lot of milk.



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