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A mother-to-mother support

Adhunika Prakash, the founder of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms ( BSIM), a peer gorup on facebook

Adhunika Prakash, the founder of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms ( BSIM), a peer gorup on facebook

“A baby’s cry is not always for food,” says Adhunika Prakash. She is the founder of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Moms (BSIM), a peer support group on Facebook. “One of the myths around breast feeding is that breast milk is always in short supply and that’s why a baby cries. On some days, especially during the baby’s growth spurts, there needs to be more frequent feeds, may be once in 30 minutes. It is not always once in three hours between feeds,” she says.

Adhunika, who is now a certified lactation educator and counsellor, started the group to dispel such misinformation. There is no sponsorship or money involved in the initiative. “I used to spend hours on the phone counselling my friends about this. I posted links on breastfeeding to educate and support breast feeding moms. I also give references to anthropological studies done on the subject. We are victims of misinformation. When my first baby was born, he was put on formula milk unnecessarily,” says Adhunika who continues to breast feed her four-year-old son and six-month-old daughter. “We respect parental decisions; some opt to introduce solids at four or six months. We tell them to read up on the WHO recommendations which say that babies have to be exclusively breast fed for the first six months, and extended breast feeding up to two years. After two years, they can wean off whenever the mother and the child desires. We educate them and allow them to take the decision.”

She reiterates that the group isn’t against moms who use formula, but is against the malpractices of formula milk-making companies. “The formula products give the underlying message that it is ‘normal’ to breast feed once every three hours. That is when new mothers fall into the ‘top up trap’ and start on formula. The more the baby suckles, better is the breast milk secretion. BSIM also guides them on how to bring the baby back to breast feeding. Breastfeeding helps a baby achieve optimal potential and development. We also discuss risk of artificial feeds. Such babies can have an increased risk of middle ear infections, lower respiratory tract infection, allergies, asthma and a risk of childhood obesity. For the mother, not breast feeding her child could lead to an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, and developing osteoporosis.”

Swati Aravindh, lactation educator and counsellor draws your attention to the topic Breastfeeding: a key to Sustainable Development which is the theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week.

“Breastfeeding is one the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which is about ecology, economy and equity. When you breast feed children, you cut down on formula food which results in less waste,etc. Every new mother knows that breast feed is the best for her child. Milk production starts in the pregnant mother in the second trimester. There is no question of short supply. It is a continuous process. ”

BSIM, that has over 19,500 plus members, also encourages nursing in public.

“It is as simple as reading a book, not an eye-popping event. It’s a child’s birth right and it is perfectly a normal thing to do,” says Anjana Dhanavanthan, Coimbatore admin of BSIM. “We talk about simple facts like avoiding solids and water in the first six months. Besides nutrition, proteins, and fats, you are also building immunity for the baby,” she says.

Adhunika, who lives in Aurangabad, took a break from her MNC job when she had her baby.

“Building BSIM has been a full-time job. We don’t attack any parenting styles. We tell our peer counsellors and city admins to watch out while speaking to new mothers. About two or three generations back, children were breast fed till they were seven or eight years. We have heard stories of children rushing back from school to their mothers to feed. Our parents’ generation raised babies at the peak of the infant formula revolution. The marketing gimmick crippled the normalcy around breast feeding. There was incorrect information even among medical professionals. Because of unethical marketing the entire support system has collapsed. This is what we are trying to counter with BSIM.”

Himani Dalmia, new mom

"As the old adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child. In modern urban life, the village is missing. New parents are in nuclear setups and, moreover, with increasingly easy access to scientific information and global trends, there is a huge generation gap between new parents and their elders. For example, our parents’ generation was raising babies at the peak of the infant formula revolution. They do not necessarily understand or relate to exclusive and long term breastfeeding. In this scenario, a peer to peer support group is invaluable. When I was pregnant and then breastfeeding, I found myself reading several books and websites on early parenting. However, discussing different situations with a peer to peer network, analysing, applying, questioning, suggesting – all of this helps you to process what you have read and to gain self-confidence. For example, if my baby was feeding endlessly in the early weeks, it helped me to read about cluster feeding and then exchange notes with other mums who were going through the same thing. As my baby grew older, more distractible and her feeding behaviour changed, I was able to understand what was going on without doubting myself, my supply or my reading of her cues. The support I received from various peer to peer networks inspired me to start a Facebook group myself, Gentle Baby Sleep Support for Indian Parents, which provides information on gentle means of encouraging healthy sleep in babies. Breastfeeding is one of the key pillars of this group’s sleep philosophy.”

In the city

As part of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7) the BSIM here organises a latch-on session, a talk on breastfeeding awareness and myths at Coimbatore Children’s Hospital & Coimbatore Child Trust on August 5. Another interactive session on August 7 at Brookefields Mall


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Printable version | May 27, 2022 5:59:16 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/A-mother-to-mother-support/article14549135.ece