Aunty 1: The baby looks so thin, Baby needs cow’s milk, my dear. Me: Cow’s milk is for cow’s baby, my baby needs my milk.
Aunty 2: Oh God, such small breasts you have, how will your milk be enough? Me: My body has the capacity to create however much milk needed for my baby and you know it is the best food for her
Aunty 3: Don’t feed your baby so long, you are pampering him, he will never leave you. Me: How can you pamper your baby by nourishing him?
Aunty 4: Look at you, with the baby all the time, in our times we used to do all the household work and brought up so many kids as well. Me: bringing up a baby with love, care, and breastmilk is our choice as parents and we need all your help and support to successfully do it
Let’s ponder, how many of us have been the Aunty or ME in the above conversations in our lives? Almost all, right? Being a first-time mother at the age of 33 was not easy for me, to have a baby late was not a choice as well. Being a pediatrician was a privilege and personal life took a backseat in the pursuit of higher studies. I thought I knew the solutions to all the challenges of breastfeeding, but reality was far from different. As the saying goes “It takes a village to bring up a baby”, in the modern times “it takes an entire family to breastfeed a baby”. Urbanization, nuclear families and career goals have made the art of breastfeeding less familiar to many of the millennial to-be mothers. We want the best for our baby and we know that breastfeeding is the best path. However, many of us land up being a bundle of nerves when our babies arrive, not sure where to start and how to go about. Agreed that breastfeeding is natural both for mother and the baby, but we forget to warn the to-be mothers that it is a helluva painful, stressful and exhilarating ride. To top it all, mothers also have to deal with the benevolent, free-advice churning Aunties and Uncles in the midst of this roller-coaster. Many a time, the well-wisher could be our own father, mother or even husband. Equipped with knowledge and confidence, I could defend and retort to many of them. However, the dream is to equip every mother of our land with enough knowledge to be the ME in the above situations.
Adequate breastfeeding is a single practice that can prevent lakhs of children from dying, worldwide. World health organization and UNICEF recommends that breastfeeding is initiated within 1st hour of birth, baby be given nothing but mother’s milk till 6 months and breastfeeding to be continued till 2 years of age and beyond. The global rates for breastfeeding are 43%, 41%, and 45% at 1st hour, 6 months, and 2 years, respectively. So, it is not as universal as it has to be. Survey by POSHAN reported that in India, exclusive breastfeeding rate is 54.9%. Mothers face many a challenge like feeling of inadequate milk, household chores, expectations from workplace, pressure to supplement with formula etc. She needs the support of her near and dear ones as well as the community to overcome these hurdles. Currently, mothers can get guidance from ASHA/ anganawadi worker, and gain knowledge through materials circulated by Government of India via Radio and TV. She can also access various peer groups in social media as well as consult trained lactation counsellors. World Breastfeeding week celebration is celebrated every year in the 1st week of August and this year the theme is “Protect breastfeeding- a shared responsibility”. Breastfeeding no longer can be left as “ladies’ matter”. Confident, and knowledgeable mothers are the foundation of future generation. Hence, lets come together to support our mothers and become the true “well-wishing” Aunties and Uncles for our younger ones.
About the Author: Dr Emine A Rehman is an Assistant professor at pediatrics department of AIIMS, Hyderabad.