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The Breast Start to Life Print E-mail
Tracey-Lee du Plessis   
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
The Breast Start to LifeI remember having coffee with a friend once who had a young baby. Midway through my latte she unclipped her bra, threw a shawl over her baby and breast and fed her child. What struck me about the experience was that it was the first time I’d see someone breastfeed in public. It left me intrigued.

Paula, a young mother of two, has always only breastfed her children. “It really was the easiest way to feed my children. I never had the hassle of baby bottles and trying to sterilise them properly—my babies never actually had any bottles. It was so convenient. When they were hungry, I fed them. It is truly amazing to me that I was providing life to my children and that they were completely dependent on me for sustenance,” says Paula with a fond smile.

Heloise, a mom of three, says, “In the beginning it was really sore, and I was nervous about the newness of it all. But I was determined and persevered. Breastfeeding your child is beautiful and the physical closeness and connection seem to be a natural extension of your relationship after carrying your baby for nine months.”
Steve, whose 17-month-old girl has recently stopped breastfeeding, says, “It was wonderful to watch my wife provide food for my child in this way. It’s not at all sexual—you can’t see breasts in the same way as before!”

Penny Reimers, a lactation consultant who works with the iThemba Lethu Breast Milk Bank, is passionate about breastfeeding. “There is plenty of research to prove that breast milk provides all the correct quantities of hormones for babies as well as the optimum nutrition. Breast milk is a living tissue and helps combat bacteria while boosting the baby’s immune system. It is also proven that it helps protect against childhood cancers, allergies, respiratory diseases and diarrhoea.”

It was interesting to find out that breastfeeding your baby increases the cognitive abilities of your child—children who have been breastfed for longer have higher IQs. Also, breastfed babies are more secure as adults.

Common breastfeeding misconceptions:
1. Many women do not produce enough breast milk for their baby.
2. It is normal for breastfeeding to hurt.
3. It is easier to bottle feed than to breastfeed.
4. Modern formulas have almost the same nutritional value as breast milk.
5. If the mother has any type of infection or cold, she should stop breastfeeding.
6. If the baby has diarrhoea or is vomiting, the mother should stop breastfeeding.
7. A woman who has had breast implants cannot breastfeed.
8. Women with small breasts produce less milk than those with large breasts.
9. Women with flat or inverted nipples cannot breastfeed.
10. A breastfeeding mother cannot dye her hair.
Risks of formula feeding
“Breastfeeding is the normal way of feeding your child,” says Penny. “Unfortunately, there are risks involved with formula feeding. The manufacturing process in not sterile and the product contains artificial substances. There have been repeated incidences of contamination. The case in point being what is happening in China at the moment.” Hundreds of Chinese babies have fallen ill or have been hospitalised because of contaminated milk powder.

The International Herald Tribune’s Jim Yardley reported that a type of Chinese baby formula was laced with melamine, which is a chemical Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly!
It saves water.
There is no waste.
It is energy-efficient.
There is no pollution.
There is no packaging involved.
It doesn’t leave a carbon footprint.
additive sometimes used to make plastics and fertiliser. The chemical makes the formula test at higher concentrations of protein.

Formula should only be added to sterilised water for baby. Because the nutritional content of breast Our Story
Our StoryLenny and Ceri Balston, the owners of Harmonious Living, recently brought little Mika into the world. Absolutely determined to go the natural route with breastfeeding, they were disheartened to discover that Mika had other ideas. But with patience, perseverance and a little help, they were able to get him to latch on and feed beautifully.
milk is complex and it cannot be duplicated, formula lacks the vital nutritional value babies need. Formula does not have any of the important antibodies found in breast milk. It cannot provide baby with the necessary protection against infection and illness that breast milk does. Formula feeding is also quite expensive and time consuming.

Got milk?!
Breast milk is a valuable and precious commodity. It is heart-warming to see moms across the world expressing their excess milk and donating it to milk banks. In South Africa, there are three milk banks.  The iThemba Lethu Breast Milk Bank in Durban was the first breast milk bank in South Africa, and is still the only community-based breast milk bank in the world established to feed AIDS orphans. The South African Breast Milk Reserve in Johannesburg and Milk Matters in Cape Town are milk banks situated in hospitals and donated breast milk is fed to pre-term babies.
"New moms should have realistic expectations about breastfeeding. If you don’t get it right the first time, you’re not a failure."
Modern moms
The biggest difficulties facing new moms today is that they don’t have much knowledge about breastfeeding. Society isn’t as it used to be and these sort of skills are not passed down through the generations. Breastfeeding is like driving a car. It is a skill that needs to be acquired, and once you have learnt it, it becomes second nature.

“New moms should have realistic expectations about breastfeeding. If you don’t get it right the first time, you’re not a failure,” says Penny. She is concerned about modern moms. “Many moms—especially those who work—think it is a lifestyle choice they have to make about breastfeeding. What they don’t realise is that it is actually a health choice.  We’re well aware that workplaces don’t cater for little ones and it complicates matters for the breastfeeding mom. In these cases, it would be better for baby if moms expressed their breast milk so that caregivers can give baby a wholesome meal.”

Tracey-Lee du Plessis is a freelance writer who enjoys writing for a variety of subjects. When she isn’t writing or researching interesting topics, she potters around in her fledgling veggie garden scouting for weeds.
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