I was in the family way, soon after my marriage indeed. Most of the months that I was expecting, we were in Bombay, as it was called then. Visits to the doctor took place now and then. I was told that the baby’s weight was less than what was expected. When I came to Ranchi for my delivery, the doctor who checked me also had to say the same thing. My parents were there with me and that was of great comfort. Some advice, as to food and rest, was given by the doctor. My mother took care of my diet and meals very well.
Few dates before the expected date of delivery, the baby was born- a normal delivery. My lady doctor was happy that the baby had picked up weight in this last month, when I was with my parents. A bonny “baba”, a boy, accompanied me when I returned home from the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, where he was born. Ma made sweets almost everyday and guests who came to bless the newborn savoured them.
The time finally came, after a couple of months, to go to my in-laws’ place in Kolkata. Conch shells were blown, as is the custom, to welcome the newborn home. Since his birth my little one warmed the cockles of my heart. I was kept busy day and night. This was a new me- a mother was also born along with the child, who was top priority now.
Things were going well, when all of a sudden, baby was compared with another baby in the family- *facepalm* 4 and a half months older. Now this baby was nice and chubby, unlike my Shiv, who was lighter and thinner in comparison. My father-in-law began the discussion, and there was a hue and cry over this. I should switch over to feeding baby food as breast milk was not sufficient, they advised. Hence the fact that he was not growing well, and consequently remained underweight, they concluded.
I was surprised, as I always knew, that breast milk is best for babies. God provides for them in those few early months, giving mother and child a great time to bond, over restful togetherness. What is this that I hear? Almost all the family members in unison started advocating for the same. I was persuaded by my in-laws day and night. This, in spite of the fact that their second son, Gautam’s next brother, was a doctor himself. I on my part had no problem at all, in nursing baby, as the flow was in abundance.
I was on one side and the rest of the family were, almost up in arms, on the other. I became a mute spectator as far from being convinced, I was at my wits end and I did not know how to explain to them about the importance of breast milk. My mother-in-law has 6 children, and yet I found was so ignorant about this most basic fact of child rearing. I realised it would be very difficult for me to stand out against them. The reader may make a note of the varied type of problems that a young married woman may face when she is at the mercy of her “all knowing” in-laws.
By the law of nature night time came putting all arguments to rest and everyone went to sleep. The next day we that is Gautam, I and my tiny tot were to go to meet my childhood close friend. She was also a mother by now, who I had not met for some time. We left after breakfast for her house carrying all of baby’s things. Bhawani welcomed us with outstretched arms as she was only too happy to see me. She’d delivered almost a year back and knew a thing or two of child care by now. She taught me how to massage the child and other general things that mothers may do. We stayed overnight, on her insistence. The next day we found time to talk. Querulously I asked her whether tinned food was good for a baby. She vehemently replied in the negative. She had consulted one of the best paediatricians in Calcutta whose opinion was of immense importance. Come what come may she said, give only breast milk how much ever people may advise otherwise. I heaved a sigh of relief.
On my return back home, I spoke clearly and confidently and quelled my in-laws’ fears, citing what the great doctor had advised Bhawani. They were silenced and after a few days when we went to Bombay, I became doubly sure of the value of breastfeeding.
We would go to see late night films and had no problem to put baby to sleep. We would travel for hours on our scooter without the need to bother about his feeds. For almost 18 to 19 months breastfeeding continued, to MY great advantage as well. It is my earnest advice to all those young mothers out there to follow this golden rule for the benefit of both mother and child. Later your child can say with a certain amount of truth- “Maine maa ka doodh piya hai”, the famous Bollywood one liner.