Pregnancy! That beautiful time when everyone around you will feel free to launch into elaborate discussions about what to eat, read, think and breathe too. And the one thing that everyone also told me was it’s ok to formula feed, it doesn’t harm the babies, “I mean look at our babies. They are doing just fine aren’t they?” Sadly, much of the generation previous to ours relied more on formula milk than their own breast milk. So there is a serious dearth of people who will give you first-hand advice about breastfeeding. But one Facebook group is changing that.
I am greatly indebted to the group on Facebook called Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers. Without it, I don’t think I would have been breastfeeding at all, forget extended breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) is a peer-to- peer support group for breastfeeding parents, their partners and family members. With more than 50,000 members the Facebook Support group aims to help parents who are at various stages of their breastfeeding journey, ranging from pregnant to those with older children following natural term nursing. Even though the group is primarily targeted towards the Indian diaspora, it has members who are from various countries across the world.
I was lucky that a friend who had just had a baby introduced me to BSIM and said I had to join the group. In my mind I had thought “what was the need for a group to help women breastfeed? Didn’t it just come naturally to a new mother?”
How wrong I was! For when the gates to this support group opened up for me (read: my request to join the group was approved.) I was astonished to see that many women had issues, some minor or some complex, with this natural act of breastfeeding. The group wall was painted with queries from women all over India about their breastfeeding experiences.
Reading these scared me. The joy and mirth of pregnancy took a backseat for a short while and I did lose some precious sleep. But I also thanked my stars that I had arrived into the group at the right time and used the opportunity to soak up all the information that the group administrators, moderators and expert mothers were sharing.
I also came across a myriad myths and hearsay that new mothers were being subjected to by ill informed people around them. Some were amusing & some plain ridiculous. Motivation came in the form of mothers who shared photos of their breastfeeding milestones – 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, 2 years and even more. I internalized all this information and even supplemented it by reading up resources such as La Leche League International and Kelly Moms, references to which I again found on BSIM.
Today BSIM is a 50,000 strong group (and growing.) They are now a registered non profit organisation. “When we started off, I don’t think we expected it to become this big,” says Adhunika Prakash, the founder of BSIM, “But now, as the group is growing at a very fast pace, we understand that it is a big responsibility and we are trying to ensure that the parents who are part of the group get the support and advice they seek.”
BSIM’s biggest concern when it comes to breastfeeding is “the ubiquitous marketing of Artificial Baby Milk (ABM) that hampers the breastfeeding relationship in most cases. It is everywhere, on TV, on hoardings, beautiful displays at supermarkets, and unfortunately, even doctors sometimes advocate formula before addressing the breastfeeding concern. A breastfeeding solution can be found, but most jump to artificial baby milk at the first instance.” In an attempt to change this BSIM has designed a petition highlighting how hospitals & healthcare professionals do not seek consent before administering ABM to newborns. You can be a part of this mission by signing the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-women-child-development-make-it-mandatory-to-get-parents-consent-before-giving-artificial-baby-milk-abm?recruiter=749722294&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive
BSIM today is crossing many strides as it partners with healthcare professionals and reaches out to many people across the country via live events. However it is still that cosy group of mothers who have found joy in breastfeeding and now continue to support and encourage each other. So if you are a #momtobe or know someone who would benefit from being a part of this group, ask them to join rightaway. They will thank you for the tip.
If you are looking for more breastfeeding inspiration, I highly recommend the blog by this talented mommy Priyadarshini Panda who blogs at Rattle Babble Battle. She has captured her beautiful journey here: My Breastfeeding Journey