On extented breastfeeding

I’ve been wanting to start guest posts for some time now because there are many interesting, wise, brilliant mommies (and daddies) out there with some wonderful insights that we can all benefit from. Yesterday my friend Gau, one of the most gorgeous, intelligent, articulate and empathetic people i know put up an Instagram post that fired me up and i just had to share it! Here is her post:

This picture was otherwise only meant to be a #latergram post from a recent trip to continue documenting our nursing journey. I normally let some amount of naysaying slide and don’t preach the virtues of extended breastfeeding to an immature audience. Something happened a couple of days ago that made me extra protective of a bond I care so much for. I went to a doctor for a small infection and was prescribed some broad spectrum antibiotics. I forgot to ask earlier so called her up from home to ask if the meds were breastfeeding friendly. Here’s a snippet from our unpleasant conversation:


Me: Doc, I’m breastfeeding and wanted to know if it was safe to take the meds you prescribed.


Doc: (incredulously, because she had met my son earlier in the day) How old is your child?


Me: 2.7 years old


Doc: Then you can stop feeding him now. They say it’s useless to feed a child that old and you should stop now.


Me: I do not agree and even if I did, I can’t stop tonight which is when I need to start the course.


Doc: No but it’s useless and yes the meds are safe.


Me: Thank you and good bye!


Now I know that not all of the anti (extended) breastfeeding brigade goes around giving unsolicited “useless” advice to nursing mothers and not all doctors are morons. But the most basic facts of life have become so mangled and mired in hate or ignorance that right now I feel compelled to put in my two cents across to whoever is listening.
It is perfectly normal and natural to nurse a child until they self-wean (that is around the age of 6 or 7 years when they lose their baby teeth and along with that also their ability to latch). It is recommended to breastfeed a child for a minimum of two years – this has proven benefits for both the mother and the child. Beyond that age, breastmilk does not become useless overnight. A child nurses because it needs milk but not only for that. A mother’s milk is better for the child, even nutritionally, than another animal’s that is meant for its own young one. Human bodies are dynamic – under normal circumstances, a mother will continue to produce milk for as long as her child nurses. As the child grows, it finds emotional stability and security in this nursing bond with the mother. This aspect of the breastfeeding relationship is most underrated and least understood. The same people who encouraged me to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months later told me that breastfeeding after a certain age is “addictive” and I’m spoiling my son. If you hug your child 20 times a day, every day, you’re not spoiling them, are you? You’re also not cultivating bad habits to last a life time. To use the oft repeated yet meaningful line – children don’t spoil, they just grow up.
While I’m proud and thankful to be nursing my child for this long, I wouldn’t say it’s been easy. Another reason to be supportive of extended breastfeeding rather than discourage mothers by saying all the wrong things. Just as in any other relationship, the success of this one depends on the well-being of both the mother and the child. A mother may want out at any point and lead the way to a gentle and peaceful end of the relationship. Abrupt weaning can cause a lot of grief to both the mother and the child. There are support groups to help mothers in their breastfeeding journey – Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers is one such group and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some amazingly strong and committed mothers (even fathers) here.
 
This post is about extended breastfeeding and nursing in public is a natural progression of this extension. 🙂 You can’t feed behind closed doors for three years, you should never have to. But more on that later.

This is the link to her Instagram account:https://www.instagram.com/gauriddg/

I weaned my daughter off prematurely at eight-and-a-half months because of a work related trip to Germany and it still makes my heart ache. Even in that short period, i experienced how unfriendly our society and conditions are for breastfeeding. And this is not just breastfeeding in public which is nightmarish in itself, but also support from near and dear ones at home who are quick to wonder “whether breastmilk is enough” and encourage us to switch to formula before really allowing us to take our time in learning and enjoying this beautiful, natural process.

Power to women like Gau who inspire and educate us with tales like these!

If you have breastfeeding stories of your own, i’d love to hear them.


In praise of the Menstrual Cup

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Very often, when I’m going through the motions of the day, I stop to marvel at the ingenuity of some human invention. Sometimes, it is the hot water geyser (is there anything more luxurious than a hot bath?), sometimes the steam iron (like when did we humans decide that it was important and possible to get rid of the creases in our clothes?) And these are not even the most brilliant of inventions but just looking at these things makes me revel in the joys and possibilities of being human (because sometimes just the news is enough to make me despair about the lowly nature of humans).

And so a few months ago I stumbled upon the humble menstrual cup, which, from the details on the box has been around since 1932! My friend Priyanka who is always the first one to summon the courage to try anything new, told me about it and about the website hygieneandyou. This is a fantastic website that recommends a brand for you based on your body type, activities etc. and has many useful videos on the insertion, removal use and so on.

I went with the ‘Me Luna’, a German make and chose a cup in my favorite orange. Since I am a big scaredy-cat with a low pain threshold, I made sure the husband was around (Mummy will give me a withering look at this and say “Aaj kal chya Mulina saarkhe navre lagtat!” and it’s true haha).

I almost could not bring myself to insert it but I grit my teeth and thought of Rumi and of birthing her (my favourite fear-beating trick) and went ahead. And it really was not hard or terrible at all. It took a few attempts to insert it completely but once it was inside, it was amazingly non-intrusive and comfortable. And the best part came later with a comfortable, leakage-free night’s sleep where I could sleep on my tummy as opposed to the stiff ‘saavdhaan’ stance that I am forced to normally torture myself in. Because of my heavy bleeding, I invariably have to wake up feeling sticky and wet and thoroughly uncomfortable, only to face another long day in washing, cleaning, avoiding sitting down anywhere and looking for Rumi’s rubber sheets to spread on the bed but all that felt like ancient history with the cup!

I could move about freely, dance, hop, skip and jump and did not have to bother removing the cup for about 8 hours. Removal is fairly straightforward, once you get that technique of pinching the side of the cup to sort of ‘pop’ it and break the vacuum. I did have one sort of malfunction where I had confidently pushed the cup quite high and could not locate the stem to remove it. But the trick is really to stay calm so that your muscles are relaxed, and it does get easy with practice.

Women, I cannot recommend the cup enough! And as I repeatedly say, if I can, you definitely can! Just make up your mind to move past the initial trepidation and be willing to practice a few times. It will change your life and cycle! From being that week of the month that I dread, my period became something very comfortable and unobtrusive; something that did not interfere at all with my day (no more scrubbing clothes in the bathroom, yay!).

I was willing to give the menstrual cup a chance for the sake of the environment but I was bowled over by the comfort and convenience. Some tips and tricks that may make things easier for first time users: being in the shower helps. The idea is to relax your muscles as much as you can and use the water as a lubricant. Squatting on the floor works best for the first time attempt. There are loads of videos on YouTube and persistence is key. Please do give the cup a chance and see how it changes your life; join me and become a Cupvert!

Should Kareena Kapoor Khan really be the poster girl for pregnancy, delivery and post-partum recovery?

The title obviously suggests that I think the answer should be ‘No’. For the record, I adore Kareena Kapoor. Right from her silliness in films like Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karoge to her characters in films like Yuva and the more recent Udta Punjab, I think there is definitely something about her. That oomph, that elusive star quality, that amazingly sexy self-love and confidence.

For the last one year, the media has been ODing on her. From speculations about whether she was expecting a child and the confirmation ‘announcement’ to her maternity wardrobe and the fact that she kept working throughout her pregnancy and treated it as completely normal and natural (millions of unacknowledged women continue their work till the last day and quietly give birth in the fields and carry on matter-of-factly with their chores) , fans lapped up every article and photo and could not get enough of her. Parenting portals were rife with her videos and articles speaking ‘for’ a girl child or flaunting her bump proudly. Her diet and wardrobe were widely discussed, compared to Kim Kardashian, and Twitter had a field day with the name of her baby boy Taimur.

I understand that it is Kareena’s job to look fabulous and set trends and that she gets paid for her brand and image, and she did a wonderful job of marketing herself with her bump. But what I sorely missed in every story that was written about her and every picture clicked during pregnancy, is any REAL pregnancy story or anecdote. And I am the last person to say real must mean negative or ugly because I always object to ‘reality’ cinema by saying “Why do they always equate reality with horrible, ghastly, dark images of society?”

What I mean is any story at all of morning sickness, of swollen ankles, of painful stitches; the list is really endless. Any pregnancy story that talks of how OK and normal it is to experience discomfort, to not look like a million bucks when your tummy is stretched like a drum skin, to take all the time you need to recover after giving birth. Whenever we talk of celebrities at home, Mum always says very definitively “Tyancha veglach asta. They have 50 people around to help with everything”. Yes, help. But didn’t this woman just give birth? Irrespective of whether she has the best staff around her or not, she would definitely have had achy breasts post-delivery, no? And I don’t think any ghee and chawal in the world is going to immediately erase out your dark circles or make you ‘glow’. (Why are we highlighting the pregnancy ‘glow’ so much anyway? What if you break out during pregnancy?)

Again, we come back to talking about looks. How things appear.  When will we stop giving others (especially women!) this message? Why can’t we be told that it is OK to have uncombed hair and to look completely exhausted during and after your delivery? Why won’t Kareena Kapoor Khan for once, look tired, talk about feeling overwhelmed or about how it is sometimes an effort? Obviously because she has invested so much in appearing ‘effortless’. But thousands of women will cite her workout sessions as ‘inspirational’ and then feel horrible about themselves when they do not shed all those kilos as quickly.

Sometimes, there is nothing like a fellow woman’s success story to make you feel like shit. Because if she can do it, why can’t I? This is the question that all of us ask ourselves in our insecure, sleepless moments. And the answer to it is simply that you do it at your own pace, in your own rhythm and beat. If you know inside (and you ALWAYS do!) that you are doing the best that you can, that is really more than enough already! God knows birthing and raising a child is hard enough, without the added pressure to ‘appear’ a certain way. By juggling that job and all your household chores, by walking the tightrope between what your parents think best and what your in-laws think, you are already amazing, beautiful and glowing. You don’t need to spend any more on that fantastic maternity wardrobe, trust me.