Yolisa Tswanya and baby Buhle
Carrying my daughter for nine months was the most exciting thing in my life. Other than looking forward to holding her, I was excited to start breastfeeding - I had heard how good it was for the baby and I have seen other mothers do it, so of course I would do it. It’s a natural thing, and it would be easy.

Boy, was I wrong. It was a rough start. Raw nipples, wondering if I was doing it right and pressures from family to “put the baby on formula, because you are starving her” almost made me quit in our second month.

The first three weeks were hell. I was not able to get my daughter to latch properly and that was so painful, and I would flinch before feeding her. My toes would curl as she started to latch and slowly relax, mid-feed.

I had no idea I was capable of producing so much milk and while that was a good thing for my daughter, it was not so great for me. The pain of engorged breasts and having mastitis is not something I would wish on anyone.

Then, about two months in, it got easier. We both found our groove and it became the most beautiful journey I have ever been on. As soon as I got the hang of it, I had to get used to feeding in public. I was so nervous about it and the debate of covering up played in the back of my mind. My child wasn't having any of it. and didn’t seem to care that I was nervous about being "exposed” in public. She would smack the cover away or be distracted by it.

I got the courage one day to take my breast out and feed her, on a bench in the mall. I avoided looking up as I was scared of the stares I was getting, but I got over it as I saw how happy my child was.

I learnt to get comfortable with feeding her anywhere and the support from my boyfriend went a long way in helping me get over this fear. Had it not been for him, I would still be looking for an enclosed spot to feed my child.

Then I had to return to work after five months of leave, to find yet another challenge on my breastfeeding journey - expressing at work. Without a set lunch time, finding not only the time but also a place to do it was difficult. The combination of missing my child, adjusting to working again and having full breasts saw me end the first day in tears.

I expressed for the first two weeks, as leaving my work for around an hour was not working out and not having a nice space to express in was unpleasant.

I leave work with very full breasts each day and express as soon as I get home, so I can realise my wish to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for the first six months. Nothing can beat looking into the eyes of someone you have created as they get, arguably, nature’s best.

Seeing her grow into a healthy and happy baby all because of my breast milk makes all the tears, pain and milk-soaked clothing so worth it.