Breastmilk; nature’s elixir which combines nutrition, immunology, and nurture in precise proportions for the new born who has just come from the protective womb of a mother.

When done correctly, breastfeeding can save not 10, not 100, not even 1000, but over 800,000 lives every single year – helping young babies survive and thrive by promoting their little brains and bodies to develop rapidly and properly, whilst protecting them from infection. It also has a long lasting protective effect, in that it reduces the risk of non-communicable disease in later life. It is a saviour for mothers, too – protecting them from chances of developing breast cancer.

Mothers breastfeed their children outside a health centre in Chanika, Tanzania. Photo: Daniel Hayduk/ RESULTS UK

And yet, what makes good breastfeeding practices challenging? Every mother wants the best for her child, but it’s not an easy path. What do mothers have to say?

We asked the super mummies at RESULTS UK, and they have very kindly shared their experiences with us. Here is what they have to say:

  • All mothers would like to breastfeed for as long as possible; 6 months exclusively and even thereafter, but nobody other than the mum herself knows just how exhausting it is; and more so when you have to start work again;
  • Breastfeeding hurts. Your body needs to learn and adapt physically to allow for breastfeeding to happen naturally, so does the baby to start latching properly on to the breast. It’s a myth that you’re doing it wrong, if it hurts. It hurts anyway, but the baby and mum learn along the way, and everything falls into place. BUT it takes time;
  • Partner support is invaluable. From helping the baby latch on, to lending a helping hand to the mother; comforting and assuaging her, and making her feel that this is a team job. Breastfeeding can be isolating, but it definitely does not have to be;
  • Learning and preparation helps – Doctors, nurses, midwives, health visitors, older experienced relatives, but also books and DVDs to help you get past the initial hiccups;
  • Breastfeeding in public can make one self-conscious, but when you know what’s good practice for the child it wouldn’t matter to you what others thought. That said, public places – from restaurants to tourist attractions need to start catering for breastfeeding mums;
  • TV and media have a huge role to play in ‘normalising’ breastfeeding – too often you only see mums feed using bottles, but not breastfeeding;
  • Just how financially viable, sustainable, and less of a hassle breastfeeding is, as opposed to formula feeding, is hugely undersold;
  • Stick with it, and it will get easier. It is hard and exhausting, and a steep learning curve, but it is amazing, and the connection you make and bond you build with the baby is super rewarding;
  • Breastfeeding is best feeding– exclusively for the first six months and alongside complementary feeding thereafter, but we ought to appreciate that despite all the support, good intention, and best of efforts by the mum, it just doesn’t work for some mothers. It is unfair to make them feel guilty, as no mother does not want the best for their child. Give it time, and a genuine attempt, but don’t be harsh on yourself if it still doesn’t work.

As World Breastfeeding week comes to a close, we ought to express our HUGE thank you to all the mums who put in their life and soul into overcoming the initial struggle and breastfeeding their little babies.

It is high time the rest of the universe – from health facilities to home, workplace, recreational facilities and media supports them in making this happen!