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

This is Abigail

South African, age 34
Location At the post office in Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her 13-month-old child
Photographed August 2017

When my daughter was six months old, I returned to work. During the build-up to that Monday I spent the weekend stressing that I would not be able to provide her with enough expressed milk for my first day away from her.  Ultimately the stressing served no purpose; in spite of it I ended up having more than enough. I had to pump milk at work, hands-free, sometimes in mid-conversation with colleagues – and not be inhibited, or make them feel so*. Breastfeeding’s longevity and success are very much controlled by how we approach it and the environment we create around it. It can be the most joyful experience any mother can have if faced head-on, without fear or inhibition. I have pretty much fed anywhere, respectfully, and chosen not to worry about it most of the time. Whether others have cared or not, I can’t say. They have not been my focus.

The bond I have with my daughter while she is feeding is incredible. Feeling her hair against my skin, her weight in my arms… it’s very satisfying, the rush of the milk being let down when she starts to feed, her stroking my arm or touching my neck. She is more confident and secure and I believe this is strongly connected to the relationship created during breastfeeding. When she is sad, sick, worried or sore, breastfeeding and breast milk soothes and comforts her in a way that nothing else can. It is consistent – unlike anything else in life.

I think we all experience our bodies, breasts and breastfeeding in our own way. Yes, our bodies are sexy and completely awesome and should be idolised in their many shapes and forms, but at the same time our basic biological function is procreation. That is the sobering part that condemning types like to overlook when they start their criticisms. Breastfeeding is equally beautiful, is less provocative and exposes a woman’s beauty and strength in another light.

Why would you spend money on formula that is firstly, costly and secondly, not uniquely designed as your breast milk is, for the individual needs of your child? If you are producing your own milk and are able to feed your baby with reasonable ease, then there should not be the need for another option.

Abigail works as a Freelance Costume Supervisor for Films and Series.

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.