South African artist Zolani Mahalo hitting the right note with her breastfeeding goals
Breastfeeding was in the global spotlight during the first week of August as countries highlighted its health benefits. In South Africa, where the exclusive breastfeeding rate is lower than 10 percent, the national health department has dedicated the entire month to breastfeeding awareness and promotion. We spoke to Zolani Mahalo, lead singer of the band Freshlyground, about her pregnancy and breastfeeding goals.
By Emma de Villiers
August 2013 - Her tiny frame stands in stark contrast to Zolani Mahalo’s powerful voice – its distinct quality able to sweep crowds to their feet. Zolani is the lead singer of South African Afro-fusion band Freshlyground. Their music is best described as a unique blend of kwela, folk, blues, jazz and indie rock. But right now it’s not the band (or the music) taking center stage. Zolani and her partner are eagerly expecting their firstborn.
“We’re absolutely thrilled about the pregnancy,” says Zolani. “I can’t wait to meet this little person developing inside of me and I look forward to exploring the connection with my child.”
Zolani’s excitement at being a parent is only matched by her determination to give her baby the best start that a mother has to offer – breastmilk* .
“For me the decision to breastfeed was a no-brainer,” says Zolani. “Your breastmilk is exactly what your baby needs. Formula might have been scientifically formulated, but it doesn’t come close to the real thing.”
An easy way to get your pre-pregnancy figure back
Zolani’s stance on breastmilk is firmly backed up by research. It’s been proven that no other feeding option offers the same kind of lifelong protection, especially to infants under 12 months of age. Breastmilk-fed babies are less prone to diarrhea, are better protected against infections and their brain development is better supported.
But it’s not only babies who benefit from breastfeeding. Mothers who breastfeed find it easier to regain their figure, and some research findings even suggest that it might lower the risk of certain cancers.
Working mothers and breastfeeding challenges
As the lead vocalist for one of South Africa’s most successful bands, Zolani often finds herself travelling for days and sometimes, weeks on end. But, she says, where there is a will there is a way.
“We made this decision together,” says Zolani. “My partner and I are well aware of the challenges, and it’s for this reason that we equipped ourselves with knowledge regarding options for expressing.”
World Breastfeeding Week: Closer to mothers
The theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is Breastfeeding: "Closer to mothers". Zolani can testify to the value of having a support structure firmly in place.
“My sister in law has two children that she breastfed and it’s been very beneficial talking to her about it,” says Zolani. “One of the things that stood out for me from my conversations with her is the sense of closeness and intimacy it allows you to experience.
Zolani’s partner supports her breastfeeding goals. “We both felt that having a baby meant that you have to arm yourself with knowledge. As a parent you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your child. Why not ensure that you know all there is to know?”
An ideal advocate for a cause close to UNICEF’s heart
Zolani’s approach to her baby’s health is a natural fit for an organization like UNICEF. “Child rights and welfare are two aspects that are right up my alley,” she says. “My mom was a teacher and I find that I also have the desire to connect on a deeper level with children to better understand them.”
“I have an inherent need to take care of my baby, and it is my hope that all mothers-to-be would feel the same way about the lives they are bringing into this world. And with this need comes the desire to respect this child, and what better way to do this than by investing in his or her health by breastfeeding.”
*At the time of this article going live, Zolani was yet to give birth.