“Less than 10% of South African Women exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of their lives”.

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 1 – 7 August 2020, we asked Sudha Maharaj, one of our resident physiotherapists with a special interest in Women’s Health, to provide some encouragement and advice for breastfeeding. She can be found at our Pinetown and One Sports and Wellness (Hillcrest) branches.

Sudha’s Story

The hardest part of being a new mother for me, was the challenge of breastfeeding my baby.

I naively assumed that once my baby was born, I would place him at my breasts that were full of milk and he would latch on and drink with ease. I was wrong. I had a baby that latched on poorly from the start. I experienced pain and discomfort. I had concerns that my baby was not getting enough nutrition from my breastmilk and that he was not gaining weight appropriately…and the list of challenges went on and on.

 It turns out that whilst some women have an easy experience, others don’t have such a smooth experience – there is a science and skill to breastfeeding!

Many women that I have treated share my sentiments about how overwhelming, frustrating and challenging this process can be. The women who persevere will find that the breastfeeding journey can be joyful and rewarding. However, I understand that for some mothers, this is not always possible for various reasons. I respect your struggles and choices but hope that regardless, you find the information I provide here, useful.

I wish you a successful, rewarding and fulfilling breastfeeding experience.

Breastfeeding SUDHA
Credit: Sam Swiatek Photography

Ensuring a better breastfeeding journey

  1. Preparation is vital: Understanding your body, ensuring that you eat well, drink enough water and get good rest helps your body prepare physically for the task at hand. Reading material is important, as well as chatting to friends and family who have had successful breastfeeding journeys. Of course, your doctor can also be a valuable source of information.
  2. Patience and Practice go a long way: As much as you are figuring out your new baby, your baby is also figuring you out. A valuable tip to help decrease frustration is to offer your breast to a baby that’s hungry-but not starving.
  3. Support is available: There are so many places a parent can go to for assistance. Doctors, Lactation Consultants, Support Groups. Take full advantage of all the help available. As the saying goes, It takes a village to raise a child.

Tips for comfortable breastfeeding

  • Ensure a good latch for your baby and a comfortable position for yourself.
  • If your baby latches only onto your nipple, gently break the baby’s suction by placing a clean finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth and try again.
  • Try changing positions each time you breastfeed
  • Offer both breasts at each feeding. Let the baby stay at the first breast as long as is necessary. Offer the second breast once the baby has stopped or slowed down at the first breast.
  • If you experience pain persistently, seek help from your Dr or a lactation consultant. Pain can lead to delayed feeds, which can result in other challenges like engorged breasts etc.
  • Wear a well-fitting, supportive bra that is not too tight and restrictive.
  • Try letting your nipples air dry after feeding or wear a soft cotton shirt.
  • Do not use creams or nipple shields without advice from a professional.
  • Avoid washing your breasts with harsh soaps. Clean water is sufficient.
Breastfeeding Positions
Breastfeeding Positions courtesy of FreshMilkMama.com

Ensuring a good latch

When your baby latches onto your breast correctly, breastfeeding is more likely to be successful.

  • Your baby should latch onto your entire nipple as well as some of the surrounding areola (the darker area of your breast around your nipple)
  • Your baby will have his/her chin and nose touching your breast.
  • Your baby’s lips should be turned out (like fish lips)
  • You see your baby sucking and you can hear swallowing too.
  • This is not painful for you
  • Your breasts should feel softer after each feed.
  • Your baby seems satisfied after each feed
  • Your baby gains weight appropriately.

A poor latch can lead to complications and challenges that are painful for the parent and can affect things like failure to gain weight in a new born baby. Other factors that can be challenging to babies and breastfeeding include prematurity, congenital conditions e.g. tongue ties, Jaundice and hypoglycaemia.

Breastfeeding related challenges for the Mum include:

  • Cracked/bleeding/painful nipples
  • Mastitis (infection of the breast if left untreated can lead to a breast abscess)
  • Engorged breasts
  • Poor latching and positioning difficulties

Medical Support

Breastfeeding related challenges for the Mum include:

  • Cracked/bleeding/painful nipples
  • Mastitis (infection of the breast if left untreated can lead to a breast abscess)
  • Engorged breasts
  • Poor latching and positioning difficulties

Physiotherapists use modalities like Laser therapy, Ultrasonic therapy, manual drainage techniques and taping to treat appropriately based on the challenge experienced.

We provide education on positioning and latching techniques to promote successful breastfeeding. We support and motivate our breastfeeding parents, and often work with their multi-disciplinary team to minimize complications

Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following when breastfeeding:

  • Fever
  • Blood/pus in your breastmilk
  • Signs of a breast infection where both breasts look infected
  • Severe and sudden onset of symptoms

So why should you breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is a natural way to be bond with your baby and breastmilk provides specific nourishment that only you can provide. It is much cheaper than buying formula which means a bit of a cushion for those unexpected added expenses. There are also numerous health benefits for parent and baby.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Baby

  • Breastmilk is easily digested
  • Breastmilk has cells, hormones and antibodies that protect babies from illness
  • Research shows that breastfed babies have a lower risk of: Asthma, diabetes, certain gastro-intestinal conditions, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood Leukaemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother

  • Breastmilk is always at the right temperature and requires very little preparation
  • With physical closeness (skin to skin), Oxytocin levels are increased. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps breastmilk flow and has benefits on feelings of wellbeing.
  • Some research suggests that there is a link with post-partum weight loss.
  • Decreased risk of ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer.
  • Decreased risk of postpartum haemorrhage.

The recommendation is to breastfeed your baby within the first hour of their birth (if circumstances allow this).

“WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand – that is as often as the child wants, day and night. No bottles, teats or pacifiers should be used. From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond”.

Liquid Gold

The first milk that your body produces during pregnancy and just after giving birth is called Colostrum. This so-called liquid gold also has a range of benefits. This milk is thick, yellow and rich in nutrients and antibodies which help to protect your baby against illness.

A new-born baby’s stomach is tiny, so just a small amount of colostrum is sufficient in the first day or two until mature breastmilk is produced.


Meyer A et al 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Maternal and Child Nutrition(2007), 3, pp.271-280

https://pmhp.za.org/wp-content/uploads/SAHR2016_chapter10_Breastfeeding.pdf accessed on 20 July 2020

WHPG Course Notes. Introduction to Breastfeeding. November 2019

https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding accessed on 20 July 2020