For as long as I can remember, my mother has been telling me how much she loved breastfeeding her two children. She told me she actually cried both times when we weaned! To be honest, I thought she must have been overreacting, but at least I grew up with some idea that breastfeeding is a normal thing to do. I even remember playing at breastfeeding my dolls as a little girl!
My first “official” encounter with breastfeeding (that is, the first encounter I was old enough to remember) happened in my second year of studying to be a dietitian. We were informed that an entire Friday afternoon had been scheduled for lectures on breastfeeding. I distinctly remember thinking to myself: “An entire afternoon? Are they kidding? I mean, how much can there be to say about something as natural as breastfeeding?!” Needless to say, I soon discovered that there is far more to breastfeeding than meets the eye. That Friday afternoon was the first thing that tickled my interest in breastfeeding, and as I learned more about it I, became more and more intrigued.
One year out of university, we relocated to Mpumalanga for my husband’s work and I started working at a small district hospital. For the first time, I was able to work with pregnant ladies and mother-baby pairs on a daily basis, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I got to see for myself how well the breastfed babies did – they were healthier and they grew better than their formula-fed counterparts, and these mother-baby pairs seemed to me to share a very special bond. Unfortunately, I also saw that so many women who wanted to breastfeed didn’t succeed, because they never got the help and the information that they needed. There was (and is!) a dire shortage of healthcare workers who really know the ins and outs breastfeeding.
What finally pushed me to decide to train as a Lactation Consultant was the birth of my own baby in November 2011. I avidly read everything I could about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, and I soon realised that my knowledge exceeded that of any doctor or midwife I knew – both at the public hospital where I worked and the private hospital where I gave birth. And yet, even with all that knowledge, I encountered some breastfeeding problems that I could not solve on my own; problems that I only solved with yet more reading and research, trial and error, and a stubborn refusal to give anything but the breast. Now I knew why so many women gave up on breastfeeding! If even I, with all my knowledge and determination, had a hard time, what hope did the average woman have? I decided that something had to be done, and I was the right person to do it: I enrolled for a postgraduate qualification in Lactation Consulting the moment I got back from maternity leave.
In the years since then, I have spent countless hours working with moms and babies to sort out their breastfeeding problems. I have read more books, journal articles and websites than I imagined existed – even better, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from those who have been working with breastfeeding much longer than I have, and learned things that are not written down anywhere. And I’ve made it my mission to share this knowledge with as many people as I possibly can.
Without a doubt, the biggest reward has been seeing breastfeeding work for all sorts of people: mothers living in the townships with no income, well-off middle class working women like me, and even premature babies whose very survival seemed almost miraculous. Every time I look into the eyes of a mother whose baby is finally taking the breast, I know that this is what I was born to do. This blog and the information I put on it is just one more way to get the message out there. I really hope that you will find something, some tip or trick or a bit of inspiration, that will help you to experience a bit of the magic.