South Africa has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Sadly, only a few mothers choose to breastfeed their babies exclusively. In my opinion, there is not enough being done to educate mothers of the benefits, and certainly too few workplaces that support breastfeeding mothers. Despite the challenges, I chose to breastfeed my child for as long as I could. I’m proud to say that I’ve breastfed my son, Keshav, for 10 months now – the time has certainly flown by.
As a first-time mother, I felt very overwhelmed at my baby’s birth. I do not think anything can prepare one enough for the experience. While I was pregnant, I read a lot and watch YouTube videos to learn about parenting and come to terms with what would happen. For me, the more information the better – I do not enjoy surprises.
I had a Caesarean section because of complications during labour, and within minutes the nurse had put my baby on the breast. My initial reaction was shock – how on earth did he know that he was supposed to latch on and suck like that? It felt like a tingle and I watched in amazement as my little boy drank to his heart’s content.
In the days that followed, I learnt much more about breastfeeding. The nurses at the maternity unit were so helpful. I remember the one nurse, Joy, who showed me the various positions to hold baby and how to correctly latch him so that I would not have sore nipples. I must say, I didn’t think the most natural thing in the world needed to be taught, but it does. You have to learn what works or its going to be painful.
During my journey, I also joined an amazing group of breastfeeding mothers on Facebook called La Leche League South Africa (LLL). What’s really great about this group is there are mothers who are just like you on it, facing similar challenges, and you can learn so much from the experienced mom. They also have LLL leaders all over South Africa who will come to you, free of charge, to help with your breastfeeding issues. You can check out their website for more information.
While on maternity leave, I started expressing and freezing my milk in preparation of returning to work. My life felt like it revolved around making milk at this point. I used to get so emotional about it all, and I thank my lucky stars for my husband who supported breastfeeding right from the start. Once My maternity leave was finished, I was also blessed to be provided with a room in which to express in privacy at my workplace. It is a mission to prepare bottles and a cooler bag every day, and then finding time in a busy workday to pump, but I focused on the benefits for my child and persevered.
There are times when I feel when Keshav is constantly attached to my boob and other times now when he is eating more solids and drinking less frequently that my heart misses having him close by. It’s been a beautiful experience and I strongly recommend that you try to get over all the speedbumps, to persevere and breastfeed successfully.
So why am I so gung-ho about breastfeeding, you may ask? I chose to breastfeed after knowing the benefits. The fact that my child would have the best in terms of nutrients and antibodies, the further benefit of postpartum weight loss and possible reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease really are a big plus for all. Not to mention that breastmilk is free and comes straight from the source, so there’s no need for boiling water and carrying around big nappy bags.
During the last 10 months, I have experienced plenty of eye rolling, stares and comments like, “When will you stop?” and, “Are you still breastfeeding?” even, “I can’t believe you are still doing that!” These, ironically, from mothers and women. I think feeding my child is the most natural thing to do. Thank you to all the people in my life that have supported my journey thus far.
Please support breastfeeding mothers, the only way we are going to normalise breastfeeding in South Africa is to do it, talk about it, accept it. This is my contribution.