So why are we told formula is better?
When our elder generations migrated into Western societies there was a boom of baby formula. The market industry was capitalising on it, and the convenience of bottle-feeding over breast was easier for parents.
As bottle-feeding became the norm, breastfeeding became something we rarely saw. Family members were advising bottle-feeding because they believed the benefits were the safest thing for the baby and was seen as ‘higher-class.’
Slowly, the concept of breastfeeding faded, and in turn, breasts were sexualised.
In South Asian societies, breastfeeding in public became taboo and seriously looked down upon, whilst mothers heard ‘I formula-fed you and you turned out perfectly healthy.’
Meera explains to me that babies will naturally put on a lot of chubby weight, and naturally lose it to regardless of being bottle or breastfed.
Over time, a healthy chubby baby became associated with formula and smaller babies as a result of breastfeeding, which just isn’t the case.
On top of the changes to society, the ‘burden’ of South Asian mothers versus ‘house-wives’ barely gave mothers time off.
Meera tells me, all mothers should rest in the first 6 weeks of giving birth, both whilst getting used to breastfeeding and taking the opportunity to heal their bodies.
But recalling a personal account, she stated, “I remember seeing my sister-in-law walking painfully down the stairs a day after giving birth. Even though she tried to hide the excruciating pain she was in, she felt she had to come downstairs and meet the guests. Whilst her baby cried as they passed him around, she played the role of perfect housewife again and again, instead of being treated like a woman who had just had her body torn open.”
At this point of our conversation, I still couldn’t see myself as a mother who breastfed and especially as a mother who breastfed in public.
Having been raised in a strict South Asian household, the concept made me feel extremely uncomfortable and restless.
Sitting in a busy coffee shop, a young mother with a small baby wrapped in a blanket sat next to me. She confidently breastfed her baby, making sure her baby was comfortably placed, whilst she smiled at me.
My entire uneasiness on breastfeeding vanished at that moment. I began to see with my own eyes, it was not vulgar or ‘dirty’ or bad. The mother made sure her skin was not showing and was doing the best she could for her bundle of joy.
Meera explained to me breastfeeding in public is looked down upon because it isn’t something we normally see. But by mothers breastfeeding confidently and happily, it can become a norm.
She explained to me, as a mother of three daughters, she was extremely reluctant and embarrassed about breastfeeding in public. But she found a way to do it without showing skin and built her confidence.
Influencer @withloveleena uses a breastfeeding cover, which can be found on Amazon to cover herself when feeding her newborn.
Meera tells me fathers can also have a big part in supporting the mother with breastfeeding. Being aware, researching and finding out information before the birth can help the mother deal with nipple pain or issues that arise. This way, the mother can be assured she’s doing the right thing and receive the support she needs instead of being told, ‘This is hard, let’s just switch to bottle.’
As a society, we have a long way to go towards accepting and encouraging breastfeeding mothers as well as providing support to parents using formula.
The best advice Meera gives mothers is to breastfeed for the first two or three days of the babies birth.
This allows the foremilk called colostrum to transfer into the baby’s body and prepares the gut for milk proteins to pass through.
This gooey liquid helps prevent allergies and eczema and is extremely beneficial.
In some South Asian cultures, the colostrum is seen as ‘dirty’ and the baby is given honey or sweet instead which doesn’t compare to the benefits of foremilk.
Meera finishes our conversation with a message to all mothers. She tells me, once again that all mothers are right when it comes to their babies. Her view on breastfeeding is never meant to ‘shame’ or point fingers at mothers using formula, but to encourage and support those who want to breastfeed but are unsure of how to start or fearful of South Asian taboos.
For more information follow @breastfeedinginfo
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