Exclusive Breastfeeding | Western Cape Government

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(Western Cape Government)

Exclusive Breastfeeding

(Western Cape Government)

This brochure provides information to mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of their babies' lives. The pamphlet also answers some of the tricky questions about breastfeeding.

"Babies need breast milk only, for the first six months of life."


Question: My neighbour said that I should get some medicine to clean my baby's stomach. Is this important?
Answer: Colostrum (the first milk your breast will produce) cleans the stomach. You will not need any medicines for further cleaning as breast milk is clean and actually lines the stomach, protecting it from bacteria.
Question: In the first few days, if I do not have enough milk, can I give water or other milk as well?
Answer: The colostrum is all the baby needs. You just need to feed the baby often, so that more milk is produced. Ask the midwife to leave your baby with you after birth so you can put the baby to the breast. The baby will quickly learn how to suckle and this will help you to produce more milk. Mixed feeding is not recommended.
Question: I am giving breast milk, but my baby is not satisfied. Do I need to give formula as well?
Answer: No, you can produce more milk by feeding the baby more often. Allow the baby time to drink until satisfied on one breast to make sure the baby gets hind milk before offering the second breast, which the baby may or may not want. The more the baby suckles, the more milk is produced. Remember: mixed feeding is not recommended.
Question: My baby wants to feed so often; maybe I don't have enough milk?
Answer: Maybe the baby is growing quickly and needs more milk. By feeding often, you can produce enough milk for the baby's need. The milk will not run out! Allow extra time for the baby to suckle; don't pull the baby off the breast. If the baby has more than six wet nappies every day, is being fed often (at least eight to 12 times a day) and the baby is gaining at least 500 g every month, then you are producing enough milk.
Question: If my baby cries often, what do I do?
Answer: Comfort your baby by putting him/her to the breast more often. Babies need to be close to their mothers. If your baby is hungry, thirsty or upset, suckling at the breast will satisfy them. It is unlikely that you will overfeed your baby by giving breast milk only.
Question: Is it good to give other drinks?
Answer: No, adding other drinks means that the baby is more likely to get diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, especially when the surroundings are unhygienic. Also, if the baby has other drinks, he/she won't suckle as often and you won't make enough milk. Mixed feeding is not recommended.
Question: Does the baby need water when it is hot?
Answer: No, the first milk (fore milk) has lots of water and quenches the baby's thirst. Just make sure you feed your baby often in hot weather.
Question: When should I add other foods?
Answer: After six months, continue breastfeeding as before but add other foods as well. A baby is only ready to start to eat after six months. If HIV positive, then rapid weaning (after six months) off the breast is recommended.
Question: What if I am HIV positive?
Answer: It is important to discuss feeding options with a HIV counsellor before making a choice. If the following conditions exist:
  • Poor access to clean water, poor hygiene or poor sanitation.
  • Limited access to healthcare.
  • If cost of formula is very high.
  • If infectious diseases such as diarrhoea are common.
Then exclusive breastfeeding will be the safest option. On the other hand, if:
  • Formula milk is accessible and can be prepared with clean boiled water and utensils.
  • Formula feeding is acceptable in the community and household.
  • Adequate healthcare is available.
Then exclusive formula feeding will have fewer risks. Be sure to use a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent any new infection. If you have any problems such as painful nipples or breasts, be sure to go to the clinic early for help.
Question: What are the most important things for a mother to remember?
  • Babies need breast milk only for the first six months of life, and their mothers can produce all the milk their babies need.
  • The more a baby suckles at the breast, the more milk is produced.
  • The healthiest babies are exclusively breastfed babies.


Every mother who chooses to exclusively breastfeed her baby for the first six months is doing the best thing she can to help her baby grow and stay healthy. Not all breastfeeding is the same, and the differences are important:
  • Exclusive breastfeeding - when the baby receives only breast milk and nothing else.
  • Mixed feeding - when the baby receives breast milk with other foods, such as milk, water, juice, tea, formula, cereals and baby food.
  • Note: Mixed feeding can increase the chances of a baby getting infections.
The healthiest babies are the ones who are exclusively breastfed.
Giving the baby formula, water, tea, other drinks, cereal or other foods in the first six months can increase the baby's risk of getting diarrhoea, pneumonia and allergies.
The more the baby suckles at the breast, the more milk will be produced. The way to produce more milk is to breastfeed the baby more often. If the baby is given a dummy or drinks from a bottle, they will not suckle often enough from the breast and the mother will produce less milk. The baby may also become confused about how to suckle and may even refuse the breast.
Breast milk contains all the nutrients and water the baby needs for the first six months of life, thus the baby does not need anything else to drink.
Colostrum (the first milk your breast will produce) cleans the stomach out, and this milk is clean. No medicines or drinks should be used to clean the stomach.
Although the first milk (fore milk) that comes from each breast looks thin and watery, it is very nutritious. This milk is meant to quench the baby's thirst.
After the fore milk comes the richer hind milk, which contains extra fat and energy, so the baby will feel full and grow strong. Let the baby drink until satisfied on one breast, before giving the other breast.
Constipation and diarrhoea are rare in exclusively breastfed babies. In the first few weeks the babies commonly pass stools with every feed. Older babies, however, sometimes only pass one soft stool a week, and this is fine.
Working mothers can continue exclusive breastfeeding by expressing breast milk at work and home. Expressed milk should be left covered in a clean container in a cool place, to be fed to the baby from a cup while the mother is away. Expressed breast milk will last five to eight hours (room temperature) out of the fridge, and three to five days in a fridge. When the mother returns home, she should breastfeed her baby as often as possible.


The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014