Breastfeeding a newborn baby after birth and up to six months is usually a tough task as per the experts. There are age-old myths like giving honey or holy water to infants as a first meal that is followed both by rural and urban people. Many infants are not given mother’s milk for the first few days as families say that infants will not be able to digest it and for the initial days they are given only honey and water.
People need to understand that mother’s milk is really important for the baby and the first feed is really important as it has immunological properties. Breastfeeding is still a taboo in India owing to several factors. We need to open our minds and look at the well-being of mother and child, instead of following age-old myths.
Breastmilk offers lasting health benefits to babies but women shy away from talking about it as it is a highly sensitive topic. There is very little awareness about breastfeeding in India and mothers feel uncomfortable talking about it. Would-be-mothers are not prepared beforehand as we have a narrow-minded culture that has too many reservations about bare breasts feeding infants.
There is a lack of awareness about the concept and there are too many myths prevailing in our country about breastfeeding. Elders give no privacy to women during breastfeeding but many women shy away from public breastfeeding as there is always a looming gaze of insensitive people. We need to care more about the self-respect of women.
- Mothers should be given privacy: Many women are shy of breastfeeding especially in public, so she should be given privacy. After my first child, I was very shy to feed my daughter in front of my Mother-in-law, so I used to go to my room for feeding. Mothers are usually not given privacy while feeding the baby and usually any female walks in while she is feeding.
- Lack of knowledge and education: There are many families in India that feed the infant with cow’s milk instead of mother’s milk, which is mostly due to lack of education. According to the doctors, cow’s milk is not suitable for feeding babies from birth till one year of age. It can lead to malnutrition and can cause gas and diarrhoea. Infants should be given mother’s milk for the first six to eight months. While in rural areas age-old myths prevent women from breastfeeding, in urban areas working women do not have time for breastfeeding and they don’t want saggy breasts. Working women can extract milk and store it at room temperature for up to eight hours and feed the child, when needed.
- Not everyone can feed in public: Breastfeeding a child in public is a big taboo in India but several mothers also are reluctant to feed in public as everyone is not the same. This is why they look for privacy to feed their baby, which can be very difficult at times. They might feel uneasy feeding the child, with people around them, so mother and child should be given privacy during this time.
- Many times milk supply is less: During my first child, milk supply was really less and we had to introduce formula milk along with the breastmilk. Breastfeeding is controlled by hormones and I wish that I had a lactation counsellor at that time. Many women face this issue, but as per dieticians, there are several foods that increase milk supply in mothers like milk, cumin and ginger powder.
Breastfeeding is really important for both mother and the child, so let’s break the taboo and ensure nourishment and growth to both of them. It also creates a strong bond between them. We all need to encourage breastfeeding in women by providing them with the comfort to breastfeed.