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

This is Alexandra

South African, age 29
Location At a play park near Capri Village, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her four-month-old child
Photographed June 2017

My daughter had a problem in the first two months: she couldn’t keep sucking and kept “popping” off. She would get frustrated, so I started to Google what the problem could be. I found a forum where other moms were describing similar problems and I discovered it’s a thing, it’s called tongue-tie. This is when the skin membrane between the tongue and bottom pallet [a band of tissue called the lingual frenulum] is connected more tightly than it should be.

My daughter’s membrane looked slightly “short”. After much more research I realised that her tongue-tie was not severe and that she, like most babies, could simply grow out of it. Surgical intervention was therefore thankfully not necessary – although one can get it snipped by a doc if it means baby can’t receive enough milk. When we went to a paediatric specialist, she confirmed my own diagnosis. Within two months my baby’s tongue had grown more and it was no longer an issue.

It baffles my mind that the same body part that is idolised sexually can all of a sudden be deemed disgusting when it’s doing what’s it’s intended to do. I find it funny, and would rather make people feel awkward than starve my child. I remember her screaming in shops, and I’d be thinking, “But there’s nowhere to feed you!” Sometimes you have to read a situation and do what’s best for your baby.

This little being was once a star. A star that looked down upon the earth and chose you as its mother. I can’t think of a better way to honour that soul than to give it the most magical, miracle nourishment we can give, breast milk. So it’s a personal challenge, a challenge to keep on breastfeeding for as long as I can. It can be very demanding on a mother and I’m proud to say we’re doing so well.

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.