With the World Breastfeeding Month celebrations coming to an end, we thought of bringing to you a series of photographs that captures the essence of breastfeeding through the streets and homes in India. The simple idea behind this – changing perspectives around breastfeeding. These images are by the parent duo Neha Chopra & Deepak Verma of Storiously for their #BreastfeedingIndia Photostories.
Over some virtual coffee (because we are cities apart), gossips, laughter… and a little serious talk, we found out what motivated and inspired Neha & Deepak. Read our little tête-à-tête below, only for the serious bit, of course. You dint think we were letting you in on the gossips, did you? 😛
Neha, all the pictures are beautifully captured. What inspired you to take up
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.
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 Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project (PBAP) movement on Facebook.
2. Why do you think we need to celebrate something as natural as breastfeeding?
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 is 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.
DID YOU KNOW?
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.
3. What do you aim to achieve through your photographs?
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.
Our upcoming series of photography and films, will be on working mothers who pump on the job, mothers who donate their extra milk to milk banks, mothers who have had to bottle/tube feed their breast milk, mothers who choose extended breastfeeding as well as mothers 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 mothers, and label them as not being mother enough.
4. Sounds very exciting. Can you tell us a little more about your future plans?
The photo-stories will range from stylised to realistic, artistic to documentary style photography. Normalising 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 any place is normal.
“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 normalise breastfeeding.”
– Neha Chopra, Storiously with Deepak Verma
I guess it is time we head to check out these beautiful pictures and what the mothers have to say about breastfeeding their precious ones!
P.S: Thoughts in quotes (below each image) is that of the particular individual.
“I have realised people pass judgements 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. Judgements 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 the information and freedom to choose.”
– Shubhreet Kaur
“The first time I faced flak for NIPing (nursing in public) was on my daughter’s first flight. The amount of glares, judgement 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 say that nursing in public isn’t a taboo. Breasts have a functional task first!”
– Vaishali B Karthikeyan–
“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 toddler-hood. For this, family and society’s support is very important, and hence the need to normalise breastfeeding and feeding in public.”
– Vaishnavi Iyengar
“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 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 mothers about the importance of breastfeeding your baby.”
– Khyati Anand
“India used to be a breastfeeding friendly nation. Our scriptures symbolise a mother’s breast as 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 Indian mothers can regain our lost confidence in breastfeeding, by prioritising our babies above everything else.”
– Deepa Gopalakrishnan
“I couldn’t breastfeed my first born because of lack of knowledge, doctors pushing me towards formula, 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, feed your baby – wherever, whenever!”
– Nilima Mohite
“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 realised 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.”
– Lakshmi Wankhede