The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. Apart from containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months, breast milk is packed with disease-resistant substances that protect your baby from illness. Mother’s milk is effectively a child’s first vaccination. But many children die in our country due to lack of breast milk. During the Breastfeeding Week, TN government has announced 15 milk banks across the state.
Months before this, Amrita Samant, a well-known photographer began a project to raise awareness of breast milk donation.
“I’ve always wanted to do something (non-profit) to help kids in some way. I love children and it all stems from there. I’ve been doing my bit of giving back in small proportions such as photo shoots and prints for underprivileged kids, etc. But I did have the desire to make a bigger impact.
That’s when I saw Chintya (mommy-friend) doing this noble act. I instantly caught on to it — spoke to her and got all the details. I also spoke with Dr Shobana Rajendran, who runs the milk bank and learned a lot more. I did my own research to see the current deficit in the country and lack of awareness and it only made sense to indulge my time and effort here and spread the word through my photography. If this was going to help even one baby in the NICU (Neonatal intensive care unit), it would be worth all the effort,” says Amrita.
Amrita launched six photographs of mothers feeding their babies during the Breastfeeding week. “Initially, I got turned down a lot but when the first mom agreed to be a part of the project, it has a lot to do with belief; strong belief and support of the cause. And then slowly I had more mothers agreeing to support this and coming forward to model. In six months I had six moms who posed and were extremely strong believers of the project,” smiles the photographer.
“When you see a lot of people moving towards something that eventually makes sense and doesn’t hurt anything, you would want to move towards it too.
“More than changing people’s mentality, I wanted to raise awareness — let moms know that this concept exists and they can be a part of it if they wish to. I don’t expect everyone to be on board. This is personal and it’s optional too,” she adds.
Though, there are a lot of private and government milk banks, what is really needed now is a voice to lead mothers to the milk banks. Most moms don’t know there is a milk bank in their vicinity they can donate to. And they don’t know that this little act of theirs can help newborns recover faster from their NICU phase.
Chintya Anish Iyer, a city-based entrepreneur, says that the topic of breastfeeding (in public or in private) has always been a subject of debate.
“While studying in the UK, I came across many mothers who donated their breast milk for money. When my daughter was born last year, I wanted to donate excess breast milk to the children in need. Rather than giving the surplus milk to the milk banks, I got in touch with mothers who are in need — I knew to which baby my milk was going to,” she says.
Like any other new mother, Chintya too had some reservations initially. People around her, including her mother, didn’t allow her to donate the milk at first. “I was told that young mothers shouldn’t donate milk, especially during the first couple of months. They had their worries and doubts. But after a point, they understood that this is for a noble cause,” explains Chintya.
She has donated a lot of litres of milk and she gave away her excess milk to mothers. “Once I started donating milk, my priorities changed. I was continuously pumping milk. It’s a very tedious process that needs a lot of patience and commitment. My aim is to guide mothers who are willing to donate their excess milk. Many mothers benefit out of it,” she adds.
Janani Lakshminarayan is one of the mothers who posed for Amrita’s project. Mother of two, Janani says that she never had a dilemma to donate excess breast milk.
“I am so glad that Amrita took up this project to help raise awareness of donating excess breast milk. Donating breast milk or feeding your baby in public places shouldn’t be considered a taboo. It is like denying your own child his/her.