Despite national efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), South Africa’s EBF rate in 2016 was only 32%. This community-based mixed-methods study examined the rate of EBF discontinuation and the lived experiences of breastfeeding mothers within a prospective cohort study at postnatal time points 3-14 days, 4-8 weeks, 10-14 weeks and 20-24 weeks. The study collected data on socio-demographics, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and the Breastfeeding Self-Efficacy Scale-Short Form (BSES-SF) at 6-8 weeks with infant feeding data collected at 4-8, 10-14 and 20-24 weeks from 159 mothers living in low-income areas. Six focus groups with 32 mothers with infants aged 6-24 weeks were conducted. Descriptive statistics was used for the quantitative data and thematic analysis for qualitative data. Low EBF, high mixed feeding and a high EPDS score were explained by the barriers identified in the qualitative data. The data suggests that mothers from low-income households would be better supported through interventions that address food insecurity; family relationships and skills that build confidence in mothers and resilience in confronting difficult and hostile breastfeeding environments.