Breastfeeding India Photostories by Photographer Parents

Laksmi…

The Lifestyle Portal is happy to do our bit about breastfeeding awareness. Some years ago, I had faced a similar situation when I was breastfeeding my baby and had a tough time especially when I had to go outdoors. I had a chance to voice my opinion on Youth Ki Awaaz – where there had been instances  I had to breastfeed my daughter in a toilet of a top five-star hotel in Mumbai. This kind of apathy and lack of awareness was something that I felt strongly about. Hope you are left more empowered after reading this article and seeing these stunning photographs by Neha and Deepak Verma.

Breastfeeding India Photostories Initiative by Out of Focus Pictures

Photographer Parents received support and information during their breastfeeding journey. They plan to Pay-It-Forward with Photographing and documenting photo-stories of mothers from India. Their photo-entry made it to the finals and won. It is the first photography company from India to be represented on Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) forum of worldwide photographers. Through these photo-stories, they seek to celebrate various perspectives of feeding – of nourishing and nurturing our babies, be inclusive and document diversity of normal breastfeeding, across lifestyle of mothers, ages of children, backgrounds and delivery methods of breast milk. The aim is to turn this one-week, into a yearlong celebration.

The photo-stories will range from stylized to realistic, artistic to documentary style photography. Normalizing breastfeeding in all its diversity and inclusivity is the end goal!

These stories are being created to give our society more exposure and a sense of community to our mothers. We hope, over time, society will be more accepting, that feeding a baby, in any form, anytime, and anyplace is normal.

Lakshmi

Their Story:

As a birth photographer from Out of Focus Pictures, I capture the moment when a woman becomes a mother – the moment of birth! I witness the start of their breastfeeding journeys as well. Capturing birth and breastfeeding, is about the moment of truth, a moment that is irreplaceable. A moment that is unique to each mother. A story, that is, their own.

Even though breastfeeding is an evolutionary act, it can be challenging! A mother overcomes many hurdles – big and small, to establish this bond with her child. I have come across heartening stories, of women who wanted to breastfeed, but couldn’t, due to lack of support and information. Some went through surgery and it affected their milk supply, some pursued hard to re-lactate, some had to stop early as their family, friends, medical professionals and media made them feel that they aren’t making enough milk or their baby are too old to nurse. The underlying message across stories is that we as a society, rob women of confidence, shroud her with misguided opinions, misinformation and replace this lack of support vacuum with a super-sized pack of guilt. We can’t truly get into the spirit of celebration if our mothers continue to get shamed and misinformed.

As mothers, sometimes, we sabotage our own selves, when we allow our inhibitions to get the best of us. I want mothers to reclaim the public spaces instead of covering up or much worse, hiding in restrooms to feed their babies. Deepak, and I believe that breastfeeding in public is the only way to normalize breastfeeding.

I was supported, guided and empowered by many peers during my breastfeeding years. This is my way of paying-it-forward. I was inspired by the PBAP movement (Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project) on Facebook. Coincidentally, this year, our photo-entry made it to the finals and won. We will be the first photography company from India to be represented on their forum of worldwide photographers. Through these photo-stories, we see, document, and celebrate various perspectives of feeding – of nourishing and nurturing our babies. The aim is to turn this one-week, into a yearlong celebration.

The long-term aim we have set out for ourselves is to be inclusive and document diversity of normal breastfeeding, across lifestyle of mothers, ages of children, backgrounds and delivery methods of breast milk.

Me, along with rock-solid support from Deepak, my husband and creative partner, breastfed my child (daughter named Noor) till 5 years of age. We look at World Breastfeeding Week as a way to celebrate, inform and educate women so that they can make informed choices and if for some reason, they aren’t able to breastfeed, their voices and stories need to be heard as well. Our upcoming series of photography and films, will be on working mothers who pump on the job, moms who donate their extra milk to milk banks, mothers who have had to bottle/tube feed their breast milk, moms who choose extended breastfeeding as well as moms who had to or chose to formula feed their babies. This, I believe will mitigate mommy wars that shame and alienate a certain section of moms, and label them as not being mom enough.

These stories are being created to give our society more exposure and a sense of community to our mothers. We hope, over time, society will be more accepting, that feeding a baby, in any form, anytime, and anyplace is normal. Normalizing breastfeeding in all its diversity and inclusivity is the end goal!

Mommy speaks…

Shubhreet – I have realized people pass judgments either way – feeding or not feeding, supplementing or not, too short a period or too long. Essentially that attitude towards breastfeeding is what needs to change. This is a journey between mothers and their kids and fathers too. Judgments of any kind on this will just hamper a Mother’s journey. Be it direct or polite, those opinions should not be repeatedly told to a mother and she should be freely allowed to make the best choice she can. We need to as a society empower mothers with information and freedom to choose.

Vaishali – The first time I faced flak for NIPing was on my daughter’s first flight. The amount of glares, judgment and advice I got from random people before getting out would make someone think I had committed a felony! Breastfeeding has been about her nutrition and immunity primarily but it has also saved me. On extremely difficult days breastfeeding has helped me soothe her and thus retain my own sanity. It has helped me heal when I needed it the most. It has helped me calm an angry toddler on solo parenting days. Through my photo story, I would like to bring to that nursing in public isn’t a taboo. Breasts have a functional task first!

Vaishnavi – Breastfeeding is a relationship worth nurturing. We really need to work on dispelling myths around breastfeeding and help more and more mothers initiate and continue breastfeeding into toddlerhood. For this, family and society’s support is very important, and hence the need to normalize breastfeeding and feeding in public.

Khyati

Khyati – Breastfeeding is not easy, but it’s extremely important. For me it has been the hardest thing to do as a new mother, I ended up with blisters and lumps and just this week I fought mastitis again, but it also is my magic wand. It puts my baby to sleep, helps him keep calm, gives us a moment of peace when we want it and above all it gives him all the nourishment necessary for him to grow. I have never felt uncomfortable while nursing in public, as I am usually too busy looking into my baby’s eyes. But I must admit, feeding in public, amongst people you know can be even more intimidating if they aren’t well informed. They make you more conscious. The biggest issue with breastfeeding in India is that people discourage you more than encouraging you to do it. It takes an immense amount of fire in the mother to continue feeding. I found peer groups and initiatives like photo stories of nursing mothers is an interesting way of telling fellow mom’s the importance of breastfeeding your baby.

Deepa – India used to be a breastfeeding friendly nation. Our scriptures symbolize a mother’s breast as a pitcher full of nectar. Somewhere along the lines of modernisation and struggling with our own social and cultural hindrances, breastfeeding got surrounded by misinformation and moral policing. I don’t have to go out of the way to breastfeed in public to prove a point, but I have come to realise that just like Mumbai’s monsoons, a baby’s cry to be fed is unpredictable. Would you rather hide or let your baby cry. I prefer to take a deep breath, look into my baby’s eyes and let the downpour drown out any shameful comments or stares, the monsoon mayhem turns the world into a blur for me, I feel grounded and calm. I am certain that we India mothers can regain our lost confidence back in breastfeeding, by prioritising our babies above everything else.

Nilima – I couldn’t breastfeed my first born because of lack of knowledge, doctors pushing me towards formula because of low milk supply and not having proper lactation consultation and guidance. On top of this, I was working, so formula feeding became my saviour and an easy way for my family to manage and feed my baby. However, the second time around, I prepped myself with information, had support from fellow mommy friends and my baby latched on like a pro! I feel there is nothing like breastfeeding in public or in private – it is breastfeeding! I always dress and carry stuff that I may need to nurse on the go. When your baby is hungry, you can’t do much else, feed your baby – wherever, whenever!

Vaishali

Lakshmi – I strongly believe that extended breastfeeding isn’t a crime. It is completely natural. Our culture is more tolerant about it, however, with western influence, people have started to frown upon it. In my breastfeeding journey, I realized that for my child it is a source of reassurance and emotional support. It doesn’t make the child clingy as it is commonly perceived. Instead of labelling it as extended breastfeeding, the correct terminology for feeding your child beyond the first year is and should be full-term breastfeeding.

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