Sadia* and her husband had been married for nearly 20 years, but despite numerous rounds of infertility treatments, were not able to conceive. Adoption was their only remaining option and their happiness knew no bounds when they were able to adopt their baby girl, Ayla*.
“Ayla came to us as a newborn baby. My husband was ecstatic. Since we had begun considering adoption, he had wanted to adopt a newborn, so we and the baby could share all the milestones. I understood that, but I was happy just to become a mother. For me, it was a cherry on top that we got to take our baby home within days of her birth", says Sadia.
For religious reasons, Sadia said she hoped one of her sisters or sisters-in-law would be able to nurse the baby so she would become mahram for the couple. Never in her wildest dreams, did she ever think, that she would be able to breastfeed her adopted baby herself.
Breastfeeding is considered one of the unique joys of motherhood and forms an unbreakable bond between a mother and child. Mother's breast milk aids the newborn's mental and physical development, and doctors globally recommend it. It provides numerous benefits to both the mother and baby. Breastmilk helps the baby develop immunity to allergies, eczema, asthma, and various infections. Research also suggests that breastfed children have increased protection against some forms of childhood cancer while giving mothers increased protection against breast cancer.
"My sister-in-law was happy to nurse Ayla for us, but I found out I could breastfeed her myself with the help of medications, 'gharelu totkas' (home remedies), and a lot of willpower."
Pursuing her desire to breastfeed her baby, Sadia made an appointment with Ms. Zohra Kurji, Pakistan's only certified nurse lactation consultant at the Aga Khan University Hospital.
Ms. Kurji, admired Sadia's willpower and persistence to breastfeed her child. According to her, “This was a learning experience for me too and I had to do my research as I had no prior experience of dealing with such cases."
The lactation consultant kept reminding Sadia to place her trust in Allah, “He is the provider, the sustainer. If it is His will, then nothing or no one can stop it. As human beings, we can only try to the best of our abilities."
Ms. Kurji prescribed medications to improve Sadia's chances of breastfeeding her child and using her research, went about encouraging practices that might help her.
Knowing the odds were stacked against her, Sadia followed Ms. Khurji's advice religiously and used a double pump eight times a day; using the pumps simultaneously greatly affected her sessions. She also started power pumping to increase her milk supply.
Additionally, Sadia found recipes online to make lactation cookies and ordered lactation tea, which she consumed twice daily. It wasn't easy and it didn't bear fruit immediately. There were days when she was ready to give up, and watching lactation success stories videos on YouTube left her overwhelmed and discouraged.
One fine day, however, all the efforts paid off. She noticed the first drops of milk on her nipples while pumping.
“The pure joy I felt seeing the first drops of milk after almost a month is beyond words. I never in my life imagined that I would be able to produce milk for my baby," Sadia exclaimed, describing her experience.
“I was in such a state of disbelief that I thought it must be something else and not milk."
According to Ms. Kurji, this new phase is challenging for new mothers. “The mother's willpower, along with the support from their spouses, is essential at this stage. There are also very few locally made medicines available, so that's a challenge for most patients as well." continued Ms. Kurji.
Having had terrible days and almost giving up, Sadia credits the close bond with her husband that kept her going and motivated her in this journey. She is also grateful for the support she received from Ms. Kurji.
“Seeking a lactation consultation was the best decision I took as it helped me in many things. It also helped clear a lot of doubts and dejections I was going through," Sadia said, describing her experience. “Thank you, Zohra Kurji, for everything you did for us!"
Zohra Kurji is the only certified nurse lactation consultant in Pakistan, and her motivation is to see parents have a fulfilling life with their newborns. Zohra is training a new batch of nurses to be certified and start providing consultation to parents wishing to breastfeed their babies.
*Names have been changed to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality.