When a mother breastfeeds her baby, the baby receives a head start in life that cannot be matched. Breast milk is filled with carbohydrates, proteins, digestive enzymes, antibodies and hormones that allow for her baby to fight diseases as well as providing protection from illnesses.
On top of the numerous health benefits that a baby receives from breast milk, the bonding experience that both mother and child have makes the start of their journey together even that much more amazing.
My first experience with breastfeeding was daunting, to say the least. I knew of all the benefits, wanted my newborn son to experience them all, however, there he was refusing to latch on. He cried all night, which I feared might be due to hunger. I was terribly worried, wondering what on Earth I was doing wrong.
One thing that I knew was that the first milk that a mother produces, called colostrum, is filled with immune, growth and tissue repair factors and is the most nutritious milk that your child can drink. So, I did not want to give up.
The following morning, a nurse suggested that we give him a bottle of formula. I knew at the bottom of my heart that I wanted to solely breastfeed him for at least the first six months of his life. It was almost as if he felt and heard my cries, because the next morning I was allowed to go home, where I would begin my botsetsi (a period of time, normally three months, where a mother and her new born are taken care of at home, usually by the child’s grandmother.)
With the guidance of my mother and within the comfort of our own home, things got better very quickly. I went from worrying about how much milk I would be able to give him, to having engorged breasts, pumping more than enough milk, and never having to worry about whether or not my child was hungry if I had to leave him for a few hours.
If you’re like me and you need some help with breastfeeding, here are some local resources that can help.
Serurubele: their childbirth preparation classes are excellent for advising on why and how to breastfeed. And they sell Lansinol Lanolilin, to help with painful cracked nipples, at a far better price than Clicks.
3Mothers: in addition to offering culturally appropriate antenatal classes, these wonderful ladies (who all used to be midwives at Princess Marina Hospital) will conduct home visits to see how you and your baby are doing.
La Leche League: Tuelo, the local LLL leader, is a volunteer who will meet with you and give you tips to help with issues you might be having. Their Southern African Facebook Group is also really helpful and good for people in Botswana to ask questions or get support.
SensoBaby hosts CUPPA LOVE free coffee mornings on the first Friday of each month. They’re a great place to meet other new mums and get support on your early parenting journey. They also offer one-to-one parenting consultations designed with maternal and baby mental health in mind.
Honeycomb Hub also hosts a free coffee morning on Tuesday’s at 10. It’s a chance to bump into Mums, to get together and share experiences and knowledge. A chance to seek advice from Mums who have been there
While not local, another excellent resource for information about breastfeeding is KellyMom.com. I’m pretty sure that every question has been answered there.
In Botswana, breastfeeding is regarded as an act that is very important for a baby. When one goes to clinics and hospitals, you are more than likely to find posters all over the walls, with tips on how to breastfeed, the benefits of breastfeeding as well as nurses and doctors who are more than willing to assist should there be any trouble.
It is still very normal here to walk around in malls and see mothers breastfeeding their children. I did face a lot of conflicts myself, with whether I should cover him with a sheet if we are out in public and he needs to feed. This was definitely more of an internal issue, rather than one that I felt was imposed on me by Batswana. Well, my son definitely made the decision for me. He absolutely hated being covered up, so I decided to follow his instructions!