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

This is Amanda

South African, age 34
Location In front of the lighthouse in Mouille Point, Cape Town, South Africa
Feeding her twelve-week-old child
Photographed April 2019

Every baby is different, every boob is different – and there are so many things which could go wrong, or which could work. My mom’s generation came from a time of little info and lots of formula, whereas our generation is overloaded with options and opinions. I had a very forceful let-down, so he kept getting wind all the time. It took us a while to figure each other out. I had to feed lying back, so basically going against gravity. People said it would settle after six weeks, but oh no, it didn’t. It only settled a week ago. Every time I’d go out in public, I’d be super conscious and nervous to feed. My husband kept telling me stop being such a prude [laughs]. He told me no one would care, I’m just feeding our child. I was like, “I’m going to be a prude, I just can’t do it!” I bought a cover, and you know, I’ve got big boobs, plus a forceful let down plus it’s spraying everywhere. If my son pulls the cover off, it’s going to spray everywhere. That’s just not me [laughs].

I still can’t travel without facecloths to mop up. If, at any given time, he pops off…[shakes her head, wide eyed]. I think now I’ve learned. I can feel the let-down coming. If he pops off then I can stop [the milk from spraying] by quickly covering my nipple. I find it hilarious when I get up in the morning and his face has dried milk on it. It’s on my arms, my phone… a light spray, everywhere. Epic fail.

My husband and I spoke a lot about breastfeeding before our baby was born. Before I even had children, I was quite nervous about breastfeeding. I said to my husband that it might feel like a weird sensation. For me the breast was always felt more sexual and not this thing that you would use to feed your child. I knew it was going to change when I had a child, but I was a little bit nervous whether I would actually enjoy breastfeeding or not. He was very pro breastfeeding and was set on a minimum of a year [laughs]. I said, let’s start the journey and see how it goes from there. We are surrounded by so much positive breastfeeding info and I’m lucky to have two amazing breastfeeding gurus as friends who’ve given me much direction.

I go back to work in a few weeks. Our office was not exactly breastfeeding or pumping friendly, everything was glass, but they are renovating and the new meeting rooms will have misted glass so it’s all worked out well. They have been happy to adapt. My colleague fought really hard to have our maternity policy changed. We work for a smallish company, 80 to 100 people, and she argued that we are a family-orientated business, hiring young women, so we should have a great maternity policy. She turned the policy totally around. It’s wonderful.

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.