The World Health Organisation recommends that for the first six month babies should be exclusively breastfeed - a view which is widely supported by most governments including that of South Africa. However with only 8% of South African mothers following this recommendation - the lowest rate of exclusively breastfeed babies under 6 months of age in the world. The net result being that South Africa is one of only 12 countries worldwide where child mortality rates have not declined since 1990. Infants who are not breastfed experience more episodes of diarrhea, ear infections, and respiratory tract infections and are at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and obesity.
Many South African mothers want to breastfeed and almost all of us try. Yet within three months more than two-thirds of us have already begun to use formula and by six month, more than half of us have completely stopped breastfeeding altogether. In fact breastfed one-year olds are a rarity in South Africa.
So where did we go wrong?
LACK OF SUPPORT AND MISINFORMATION
Breastfeeding is often described as this magical natural function and most of us expect it to come easily, unfortunately this is often not the case. Breastfeeding is initially a very painful experience and correct latching and positioning techniques will take some time to master by both us and our newborn. This lack of proper antenatal advice results in most of us finding breastfeeding to be more of challenge that what we had initial anticipated and we give up out of seer frustration.
Infant formulations are also aggressively marketed towards mothers as a convenient hassle free more modern alternative and are often promoted as being equivalent to breastmilk – although this is far from the truth.
"Formula feeding is the longest lasting uncontrolled experiment lacking informed consent in the history of medicine" - Dr Frank Oski Retired editor, Journal of Paediatrics
FIND IMMEDIATE SUPPORT
When we experience breastfeeding difficulties it is essential to resolve the issue as soon as possible so as to prevent further complications such as thrush, mastitis and breast abscesses. Unfortunately, finding someone who really knows how to help can be tricky, as most health professionals (even paediatricians) are not really trained in breastfeeding support and do not know how to manage breastfeeding problems. But here are a couple of good places to start:
South African Certified Lactation Consultants (SACLCs) are certified breastfeeding professionals with the highest level of knowledge and skill in breastfeeding support. To earn the SACLC certification, candidates must have a medical or health-related educational background as well as breastfeeding-specific education and clinical experience. They also must pass a rigorous exam. The easiest way to find a SACLC is via the Expectant Mother’s Guide website. This website is not always up to date, so if you cannot find someone in your area, contact one of the SACLC co-ordinators listed on the website, and they will help you to get in touch with a SACLC in your area.
Certified Lactation Counsellor (CLC) or Certified Breastfeeding Educator (CBE) have special breastfeeding training, usually limited to a week-long course, and help mother with basic breastfeeding challenges and questions. You can contact a CLC/CBE by emailing info@LACSA.org.za or you can also find them on Facebook.
La Leche League (LLL) is a voluntary organisation which provides free information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies. LLL is run by “leaders”, all of whom are or were breastfeeding mothers, and are all trained and accredited by the LLL. You can find a leader on the LLL South Africa website. LLL South Africa also has a very active Facebook group where you can ask questions and receive answers from the leaders as well as from other breastfeeding moms. I would highly recommend joining this group as they have an excellent collection of reading material that addresses various types of breastfeeding difficulties.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or queries please feel free to leave a comment below. For more tips and advice on maternity skin care check out the Expert Advice section of the Natralogic website.
All the best
Lauren Lamont - Natralogic Founder
MSc Chemistry, Dip.Cos.Sci (SA)