The Indian cinema duels of the last century were replete with references to breastfeeding. Don’t we all remember the angry Indian “hero” go – “Agar apni ma k dudh pia hai toh saamne aa”. A power statement that had a deeper meaning, the strength and might of a breast fed individual is any day more than that of one who hasn’t.
As a first time mother my journey from conception to the day I gave birth was fortunately smooth. I have already written about my experiences through those months in my initial blogs . However, due to the caesarian surgery and slow lactation process my daughter had to wait a while before I could feed her.
If I had to describe my complete journey, which by the way was longer than I expected, then I will remember the harried look of my mom on the third day when I formula fed my baby and tried to sleep. She rushed to my side and used medical reasoning to convince a new millennial mom in me about breast feeding. “Get up, try to latch beta, it is a demand and supply process”, she added.
Cut to the day when my daughter was 18 months and I was cribbing to my Mom, with the cellphone on one ear and a milk suckling monster on my lap who had successfully thwarted all my attempts to wean her off.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the mom
The first thing a doctor advices you to do when you take your little one in your hand is to give your body touch. The biology of it says, it kicks the lactating hormones to activate and ease the process of milk production in the mom. The aesthetical aspect is, the warmth of a mother and her smell calms the baby who has a new world to learn to live in after floating away gaily in the womb.
Breast milk has proven to give a newborn nutrients essential for growth. High proteins and low sugar milk develops the digestive track of a tiny being with care.
As a new mom I was worried when I was down with fever and my daughter was exclusively dependent on me for feeds. Fortunately, my doctor revealed how my body will produce antibodies to fight this fever and I will pass them to my little one, making her immune system stronger. Did I feel I had super powers? Well who wouldn’t!
Since that day I used this power to keep myself sane. I discovered over time that breast feeding was the fastest way to make my little girl sleep without me having to get up in the middle of the night and prepare milk. Of course there were some nights which were longer, all thanks to phases of regression and milestone development. I have calmed her in days and nights when she was cranky beyond control; and in outings and get-togethers to give myself some extra time with friends and family.
Blog research tick, catching up with long lost friends on calls tick, completing my book writing tick, Netflix with headphones tick and tick, all thanks to giving into my daughter and her demands. After all for her, it was but a place for comfort amidst loveable cuddles.
Feeding in public
Before I became a mom, I had been a low maintenance person. Impromptu plans and wearing the first thing that I manage to pull out, was my idea of travelling. This personality trait had to be modified when I decided to step out with a breast feeding baby.
I have fed my kid almost everywhere; in a moving car covering long distances, a wedding party with men and women walking around, in a busy restaurant while having meals, and I kid you not, literally in front of the Taj Mahal.
I will be honest , majority of the time my long dupatta/stole has been a saving grace and at other times I have rushed to convenient feeding cubicles at the airport, in the malls and the ones at the clinics while visiting the pediatrician.
What was common everywhere was the comforting smiles of the fellow women who sat beside and the awkward expressions of the men who mostly turned away to be polite. I hope we normalize public feeding and no child is deprived.
Extended breast feeding:
During the initial days of nursing, I would always look forward to end this process. My mom supported me throughout and eased my anxiety by saying, “It gets easier”. Twenty months and still going strong, I had become used to people around commenting, “Will she continue to feed until college?”, as with every other aspect of parenting, even extending breastfeeding your own baby beyond the standard timeline gets you judged. As for me and my daughter we never rushed. With constant talking and explaining she eventually weaned.
They say hindsight is the best sight. I look back and miss those cozy moments with my tiny human tucked closest to my heart. As a mother I admit that I feared separation anxiety post weaning and perhaps continued to feed her until she was two.
Stigma around not breast feeding
During the initial days when the milk production was not steady, I often ended up looking for assurances on online parenting pages. One of my neighbors shared her happy experience of raising a formula fed baby. Unfortunately that was the only encouraging source. The internet on the other hand made me feel guilty for thinking about replacing breast feeds with formula milk. The majority of the articles expressed how a formula fed baby missed on the most vital elements for growth and it was a compensation for an inadequacy in the biology of a new mother.
Last year, I met an acquaintance who is settled in Paris and we went about discussing the obsession in our land for breast feeding. She told me that very few mothers in her hometown believed in breast feeding, on an average they fed the newborn for seven weeks. Do French men or women physically or mentally appear any lesser than us? She asked.
When I look back to my nursing days, which are not very far behind, I feel it was a journey worth taking on. We did feel the initial bumps but perhaps that was how we both embraced this novel mother-child bond . After all, I did not get a chance to learn any another way of showing my love and care towards her.
Probably like in a climax sequence of a cinematic flick my daughter will also redeem my “dudh ka karz” .