The benefits of breastfeeding

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Breastfeeding is one of the most contentious issues faced by new mothers today. It is most mothers’ gut reaction to try, but when baby comes along it might not be as easy as you thought.

One of the hardest things I faced after the birth of both my babies was getting the hang of it. You have read about the difficulties of pregnancy and heard non-stop the crazy stories about labour and giving birth, but what about breastfeeding? No one really tells you that it’s hard, it’s painful, initially it feels weird and ‘getting it right’ has the potential to send you over the edge into emotional meltdown.

The pressure to breastfeed is enormous and there are numerous reasons why. Not only is breast milk liquid gold for your baby, it’s also free. Colostrum is a thick, yellow first milk that your body makes during pregnancy and just after birth. It is very rich in nutrients and antibodies and is designed to protect your baby. Your newborn will get a tiny amount, but it’s just enough for his or her tiny tummy. As your baby grows, your milk changes. The ‘mature’ milk you start to produce on the third to fifth day after birth has just the right amount of fat, sugars, water and protein to ensure baby continues to grow. As your baby sucks you may feel intense pains in your abdomen that feels a bit like labour pains. The suckling of your baby triggers your body to start reigning in your womb, contracting it slowly but surely back to the size it was. It’s pretty amazing, really.

This all that may sound wonderful, but actually getting your baby to latch on is another story. At first it may feel awkward and alien, but while you are in hospital, concentrate when the nurses are prodding and poking you and try to take in as much as possible. Ask lots of questions and point out anything that is worrying you. This will give you the confidence to persevere when you get home and suddenly, you and baby are on your own. Stock up on nipple cream and boost your milk production with jungle juice *recipe below*. If you feel that your baby isn’t getting enough, ask your doctor to prescribe something to help. There are some great milk boosters available that also contain a very mild anti-depressant that can help with baby blues. Persevere as long as you feel that you want to. However, if you are struggling, don’t allow pressure from any source get you down. Ultimately you and your baby’s health and happiness is what’s important. Stay in touch with your medical practitioner and communicate any problems or doubts you may have as they arise.

You may take to it immediately, you may take up to six weeks to get the hang of it, or you may decide to put your baby on to formula straight away. None of these things make you a better or worse mother. Ultimately we are all doing our best for our babies, and that is just how it should be.

Jungle Juice recipe

1 litre apple juice
1 litre cold water
60ml Berry Elixir
1 sachet Rehydrate
10 drops Rescue Remedy (optional)

*drink within 24 hours due to the rehydrate

Other articles you may be interested in:
Your unborn baby month by month
How to: pack your hospital bag
Surviving the silly season while pregnant
Pregnancy and sun tanning
Heading back to work after maternity leave

Written by

Emily Pettit-Coetzee is a freelance writer and a blogger of lovely things. She spends her days writing about everything from corporate finance to teen fashion and has a weakness for vintage fashion and red lipstick.

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  1. thokozilemohohole

    Breast feeding is best, but for me the experience was too painful. Every time when I had to breast feed it was like a trauma. I couldn’t handle the pain,and it was depressing when you get that mothers out there enjoy doing it and that’s when they start connecting with the baby creating a strong bond through breast feeding. It was just frustrating that I wanted to enjoy the experience but I would be lying if I said I did. The only joy I got was making sure I fed her enough milk so she doesn’t go hungry, maybe when I have another child I will also get to that level.

    5 years ago •

  1. Fatima Bibi Hoosen

    I’m very thankful that, being a first time mom, I easily got the hang of breastfeeding. My baby girl latched on immediately and knew what she was doing right from the beginning.
    But I think every hospital should have lactation consultants on hand to help new moms to get baby to latch correctly and advise her properly.
    I know how hard it can be to not have the correct information and society have lots to say to make the new (and very hormonal) mom feel worthless and that her milk isn’t good enough for her baby.

    Human milk for human babies!
    I suggest everyone do their homework whilst still pregnant. And I also suggest everyone join the La Leche League group on Facebook. There are lots of women ready to answer any questions regarding breastfeeding and even have lots of lactation consultants all around South Africa that are ready to help

    The first 3 months are definitely the most difficult. And yes, sometimes it does feel like all you do the entire day is feed your baby, but if you just persevere, it gets easier and is so worth it.
    I thoroughly enjoy feeding my 6 month old baby and intend on feeding her for a full 2 years.
    And I feel proud to know that I’m giving her the best nutrition she needs to grow beautifully

    It also helps lose all that preggy weight, I’m back into shape in just 6 months!

    5 years ago •

  1. Aqeela Galvaan

    It really helps to get a lactation consultant in to help with breastfeeding if you’re struggling. It can be emotionally taxing and professional help makes a world of a difference!

    5 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    Breast feeding is always best but sometimes one has no choice but to switch to formula when you have to return to work.

    5 years ago •

    1. Fatima Bibi Hoosen

      Mpoyif, there are lots of women who build a “stash” of breastmilk by pumping in the first 6 weeks. They then freeze the milk for when they return to work and still carry in giving baby their liquid gold.
      You can carry on feeding baby in the mornings and evenings and pump during the day to keep your supply up and keep adding to your stash so it never runs out.
      You get freezer bags made for breastmilk or you could even freeze in an ice tray with a lid and once frozen just fill the cubes of frozen milk to a zip lock bag

      5 years ago •

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