Interviews & Conversations Projects

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

This is Adelaide

South African, age 28
Location: De Waterkant, overlooking the city, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her eight-month-old child
Photographed January 2018

At first I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding in public. Another mom told me, “My friend, you know, I breastfeed in church without fear, and no one judges me!” Her church didn’t have breastfeeding rooms for moms, so she did it in the chapel while the service was on. She really inspired me. That was a mom who was bold. From that day on, I took a decision. I’m now more comfortable than ever, and when I meet other moms I tell them breast milk is the best gift I have ever given to my daughter.

I have been asked nicely if I need something to “cover up” when I breastfeed. I decline politely. That is always an opportunity for me to explain my decision not to cover up. As an adult, you won’t try eating while you are covered. It’s uncomfortable, so why should I put my baby through that? She must also enjoy the ambiance while eating, like you. As an adult you will not eat in a toilet, so why do you expect me to feed my child in a toilet? To top it all, my daughter is at that stage where she does “gymnastics” while feeding. I don’t want to restrict her. She is having fun, covering up will spoil that for her. I say to other mothers, “If the baby is hungry, feed her no matter where you are.” Of course I do get stares here and there, but what’s more important than ensuring that my baby is fed and happy?

I work for the navy and I’m so lucky to be in an environment where they completely support my breastfeeding journey. They accommodate me in every way possible. I leave home at 05h30 for work. I usually arrive at work by 07h10, go to my office and express until 07h30. My next expressing session is 10h00 to10h30. Lunchtime is from 12h30 to 13h30. My last session will be at 15h30 just before I knock off, depending on my workload, and I get home by 18h00. It’s difficult to express when I get home as she wants to feed, so the driveway is the safest place for me. I express in my car before I go in to feed her.

At one point I was doing an extra course with weekly exams and had to fit in study hours too – at the same time, my daughter wanted to feed the whole night! I was tired, emotionally and physically. I woke up one morning crying because I couldn’t take it anymore and I wanted to stop breastfeeding. I swear I was about to lose my mind. I went online, did a little reading and realised I’m not the only one going through this. I requested a day’s leave so I could rest. I read more. I decided to continue with the journey.

We should not judge those who do not breastfeed. We don’t know half of their story. We shouldn’t feel that they are any less moms.

A lot of mothers are not well informed about the benefits of breastfeeding and some health workers do not promote it. The advice some get from their paediatrician is rather shocking. I might be stoned for saying this, but the breastfeeding group on Facebook is more informative than any advice given at the hospital.

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 story 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
Available for purchase via Exclusive Books, The Book Lounge and directly from myself.