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

This is Annemarie

Namibian, age 35
Location In the desert south of Swakopmund, Namibia
Feeding her 14-week-old child
Photographed July 2018

I was feeding on demand but she wasn’t gaining weight. I couldn’t stick to exclusive breastfeeding because sometimes she’d be crying for food within one to one-and-a-half hours. The kiddies doctor also said she was not severely underweight but still a bit under for her age and so I could maybe give her an extra feed. I started giving her an extra bottle [of formula milk] in the morning and in the afternoon. Now if she sees me she knows she’s getting milk from the boob but otherwise she takes the bottle happily.

I’ve learned when she’s hungry now: She wiggles around on me until she gets her head closer to my breast. It can get super funny – she goes crazy and behaves like she has rabies [laughs], then she’s totally happy when she latches. It was like that in hospital as well actually. I had an emergency caesarean section which means it’s not really possible to get up and down from your bed in those first days, so I couldn’t place her back in the crib. I just kept her with me and had pillow supports all around me. If I put her on my tummy she would wriggle, by herself, all the way up to my breast to feed.

My husband and I joined an antenatal class in preparation for her arrival. The class covered many topics. When it came to feeding, the advice was that it didn’t matter if you give your baby formula or breastfeed, you are still a good mom – but breastmilk is the best. They explained that breastmilk is always [nutrient] rich enough, a perfect product. I was happy to feed her but even on demand she didn’t put on weight, she picked up so slowly. Formula helped us.

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.