Breastfeeding – A shared responsibility | 4 min read

The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is the most significant outreach vehicle for the breastfeeding movement celebrated in over 120 countries from 1 – 7 August.  

Breastfeeding should be a shared societal responsibility where the mother, family, community, and workplace are considerate and supportive to create an enabling environment. 

Human milk, through breastfeeding, is the best food for babies and young children. It builds brain power and healthy bodies. Breastfeeding also encourages a close, nurturing relationship between mother and child. 

Some of the biggest challenges breastfeeding women experience 

While breastfeeding often becomes a breeze after the first few months, it’s not always easy or “natural” at the start. In the early weeks of feeding a newborn, both mom and baby adjust this new skill, which often takes some practice and might be a steep learning curve for many new parents. 

  • Perceived insufficient milk supply often occurs in the first weeks of nursing, when a mother still learns how to breastfeed.  
  • Sometimes lactation support is given, but it might not be sufficient. 
  • Mothers might also feel uncomfortable about asking for help or don’t know who to ask.
  • Common issues often arise with learning positions (or holds) and latch, both of which can quickly impede feedings when done less optimally.  
  • Tiny newborns (especially preemies) sometimes have trouble getting enough of the areola in their mouths for an optimal latch, particularly for women with larger nipples or breasts.  
  • Sore nipples or engorged breasts due to ineffective nursing practices can also discourage breastfeeding confidence and frequency. 
  • Many women work during pregnancy, and many return to work while they are still breastfeeding. 

If not resolved, breastfeeding issues can result in frustration for both mom and baby and ultimately a lower milk supply if the baby isn’t sucking correctly or often enough to promote as much milk production as is needed. 

Tweaks in breastfeeding techniques can often make a difference. Lactation consultants, a doctor, and delivery nurses can most often assist successfully with any problems. 

Breastfeeding benefits  

The advantages of breastfeeding compared to formula-feeding are numerous, diverse, and convincing. Moreover, these advantages extend not only to babies but to their mothers, families, and society. 

  • Human milk enhances an infant’s health and development. 
  • Breastfed infants, especially those who nurse exclusively for four to six months, experience only half as many ear infections as formula-fed infants. 
  • Breastfeeding helps to lose some pregnancy weight. 
  • Breastfeeding rates have a powerful impact on society by affecting the health of mothers and babies, the economy, and the environment. 
  • Breastfeeding is cost-effective. Replacements such as formula are expensive.  
  • Breastfed babies have a lower risk of sickness.  

Support your partner 

With continuous support, breastfeeding will become another part of your family life. 

  • Boost your partner’s confidence by encouraging her and being optimistic about her progress. As with learning any new skill, reassurance and praise are a massive help. 
  • Listen and talk honestly about how you feel, finding your way with your new baby. 
  • Be involved with your baby in other ways so that the caring is shared. 
  • Reduce some household chores so your partner can feed your baby for as long and as often as they need. 
  • Try to help your partner relax by giving them a massage. 
  • Help out by bottle feeding your baby expressed milk once your partner and baby have got the hang of breastfeeding. 

How can women continue to breastfeed once they go back to work? 

According to the SA labour law, women can take a breastfeeding break while at the workplace. A breastfeeding break is a period that a mother takes during her workday for either breastfeeding her child or expressing her milk for the first six months of her child’s life.  

Breastfeeding may be natural, but there’s still a lot to learn. Start your breastfeeding journey by reading some of the following expert books. 

  • The Nursing Mother’s Companion. Best-selling book and widely acclaimed guide for nursing mothers.  
  • Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. This book looks at breastfeeding, from the first days to full-term breastfeeding. 
  • Breastfeeding With Confidence. This book hits the core of the confidence issue when breastfeeding your baby.  
  • The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers  A wealth of information, written by Dr Jack Newman, pediatrician and breastfeeding expert. 
  • The Breastfeeding Book Martha Sears, mother, nurse, and lactation counsellor, writes this book in the friendly prose of the typical Dr. Sears book.  


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