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An Interview: Breastfeeding101 – A portrayal of the pleasures & pains of breastfeeding

This is Andrea

German, age 34
Location A shopping mall in Tableview, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her one-year-old child
Photographed June 2017

People forget that breasts are not just sexual, but have a function for a baby as well. Just like all breastfed babies, my baby boy loves to put his hand under my shirt and play with my nipples for comfort, especially when he is tired. I have received comments such as, “Well, clearly he is a boy,” and, “Girl babies don’t stick their hands in mommy’s shirt.”

When I had my first baby, I felt like it wasn’t “normal” to breastfeed for more than six months, just because none of my “mom friends” were doing it. I felt like I had to slowly start weaning at six months, and then felt the pressure to introduce formula at some stage, which I did when he was nine months old. I stopped breastfeeding at ten months. I actually knew babies needed milk until they were two years old. I followed this route because it seemed to be the way to go; I just wasn’t confident enough to continue breastfeeding as I didn’t have a support group at that stage.

Now it feels ridiculous that I changed to formula and cow’s milk even though I loved breastfeeding! Seeing other mothers breastfeeding toddlers looked so natural. My second son is still breastfed at the age of two. It seems a way more natural choice: to keep it up rather than wean him.

Now it angers me when I see new mothers not even trying to breastfeed because they’ve been told that formula is just as good – or even better. My sister’s friend who lives in Germany was advised to buy a special formula for her daughter who’d been born ten weeks premature. The doctor convinced her that breast milk wasn’t mild enough for a premature baby!

When my second son was about five months old, I decided to start donating breast milk to babies who needed it*. I donated just over seven litres of frozen breast milk to Milk Matters over a few weeks. I wish I’d done it when my boys were newborns, as my milk would then have been used for newborns; the most important time for babies to build their immune system. It was more difficult to donate than I thought it would be as I didn’t have as much milk, but I am glad I tried.

Breast milk helps bolster a child’s immune system and milk “banks” collect milk for mothers who cannot produce their own.

In 2019 I published my first book, Breastfeeding 101, which features candid portraits of 101 breastfeeding women as well their honest stories. In this blog post you see one of the mothers represented with her blurb from the book.

The idea for this book was unexpectedly sparked three years ago when I started seeing a lot of controversial social media content about breasts, nipples and breastfeeding.

Looking forward I hope my book can help normalise what is already a women’s most natural act. I would love to see the breastfeeding percentage rate in South Africa double. It came as a surprise to learn that, according to the 2018 statistics of the World Health Organisation (WHO), our country has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breastfeeding 101 features mothers from South Africa as well as around the globe and serves as a first-hand body of information – an unintentional handbook – directly from the women it captures.

Breastfeeding 101 is a book that wasn’t intended as a manual but may serve as one.

Basic info about the book:

Title: Breastfeeding 101
Publisher: Self-published via Staging Post
Format: Hardcover, 22 x 27cm, 224 pages
Price: ZAR385
Available for purchase via Exclusive Books, The Book Lounge and directly from the author.