Moms don’t need to keep mum
Till a few years ago, breastfeeding was a taboo topic. New moms had their mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts or elder siblings to guide them when it came to breastfeeding the child. Many would give up on breastfeeding or also add formula milk if told by elders that their child was looking lean. But Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM), a Facebook group started by Adhunika Prakash, has changed the lives and the way women look at breastfeeding for better.
The group with more than 95,000 members from India and abroad, motivates women to exclusively breastfeed their child for six months, then continue breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for two years, breaks myths and clears doubts about the most beautiful bond between a mother and her child. The members also motivate each other to nurse in public because breastfeeding is the most natural thing to do.
Prakash, an MBA graduate from Symbiosis University, is mother to a son and a daughter, aged six and two respectively. A certified lactation educator and counsellor, Prakash is happy that the group has reached a large number of women.
She was selected as one of the top five Community Leaders in Residence by Facebook and the group was selected to receive up to $1 million to fund their community initiative.
The launch of BSIM
Prakash says that it was in June 2013, when her son was 11 months-old and still being breastfed that the idea struck her. “He would need breast milk a lot and very often. Nobody had told me that breastfeeding would be so hard, and more than that something that society still doesn’t acknowledge and appreciate. I wondered why was it that the fascinating facts about breastfeeding were not known to most?,” she says.
Keeping that in mind, she set up a Facebook group to connect with other women and make them feel less lonely. “I would post everyday about lesser-known facts about breastfeeding, about how women can decipher if they’re making enough milk for their child or not,” she adds.
Changing outlook of first time mothers
The first thing that the group has managed to do is to convince mothers that they should ask for help if they are struggling, rather than giving up on their goals. “It is a mother’s right to breastfeed and nobody can take it away from her. The sisterhood is there to guide moms and help them in their breastfeeding journey. While simple queries get answered pretty much immediately, for more complex queries, they can get help from lactation consultants,” she says. “The group has normalised breastfeeding, growth spurts and sleepless nights for first-time mothers. Nursing in public is difficult for many mothers. The group has helped them understand that it is common and that they should not be locked up inside the four walls of a house, just because they are breastfeeding.”
According to Prakash, the notion that breastfeeding and being employed outside the house don’t go together, is gone. “We have lots of mothers who have gone back to work and continued to breastfeed their babies well beyond the two-year mark. The changes in the body do not happen because of breastfeeding but because of pregnancy. If anything breastfeeding makes, it positively changes a mother’s body and mind,” she insists.
Women are thankful
She happily shares that every week, they see a handful of testimonials from first-time mothers about how the group has been helpful to them. “We mostly get positive and happy responses and that keeps the team going. Over the years, the ‘thank you’ messages have changed from ‘thanks for supporting our breastfeeding journey for the past six months’ to ‘thank you for supporting us through the past few years.’ We see more and more toddlers being breastfed. We get ‘thank you’ messages from mothers of premature babies too. We have even supported mothers with adopted babies through induced lactation,” she says, adding, “The support is extended to exclusively pumping mothers, mothers who work, mothers who want to transition from formula feed, mothers with specific illnesses, mothers of babies with specific illnesses and so on. Each time we help a mother to break through one of the many constraints to reach their goals, the testimonial posts show how happy and thankful they are to the group and the team.”
A happy journey
In almost six years, the group is 95,000+ members strong, which Prakash says is itself a huge milestone. “I spoke at the Mashable Social Good Summit (in partnership with United Nations) at New York about the positive impact social media can play in the lives of people. In addition to that, we launched the #FreedomtoNurse campaign when a nursing mother was asked to nurse her baby in a toilet in a mall in Kolkata,” says Prakash who also received the Web Wonder Woman award from the Ministry of Women and Child Development in March 2019.