April 22, 2008:
I spent the 18th and 19th of last weekend in Mumbai, otherwise known as “Bollywood”, attending a cesarean awareness seminar and birth film showing, organized Birth India’s founder, Ruth Malik. In typical Indian fashion, I dashed into the humidity of Mumbai running late due to plane delays and a very confused taxi driver. Thankfully, the seminar had barely starting when I slipped in beside a woman that I would later come to know as “Red” (more on her later!).
The first speaker was a Canadian La Leche League leader I, as a somewhat intimidated “to be” doula, had met in Delhi last December. Averil spoke on the impact of medical birth on breastfeeding. When a woman has a highly medicalized birth involving excessive drugs or a caesarean section, breastfeeding is much harder to establish. It is important to note that after an intervention filled births, breastfeeding is the most crucial factor in bringing about optimal physical/emotional health for mother and baby. With sky rocketing caesarean rates and profit hungry formula companies, today’s mommas need more breastfeeding support than ever! Here are some additional of the highlights I jotted down:
1.Did you know that breastfeeding within the first hour can reduce infant mortality rates by 22%? In India, that equals 250,000 babies!
2.The infant’s instinct to breastfeed peaks at 20 minutes, this instinct progressively lessens an hour after birth. After this peak, the infant goes into a dazed state lasting 1-2 days, making establishing breastfeeding much more difficult.
3. The composition of a mother’s milk perfectly fits a baby’s gestational age and nutritional needs. For example, for a premature baby, a mother will naturally produce milk that is higher in fat and other important nutrients.
4.Colostrum, besides being extremely high in antibodies and nutrients, plays the important role of lining the gut of the baby, closing up holes and preparing the stomach for mature milk. Mother’s worried about not having enough milk in the first few days following birth can seek comfort in the fact that infant tummies are the size of a marble and are perfectly satisfied by a feeding of colostrum 8-12 times a day - colostrum truly is liquid gold!
5. The formula many of you were fed 20 years ago would be illegal to feed babies today! The unnatural chemistry of formula - made from cow’s milk that has been dehydrated to remove saturated fats and reincorporate with vegetable fats – causes babies to fall a coma-like sleep as their tiny bodies attempt to digest this gastronomically foreign substance. Although the deep sleep following a formula top up may bring needed rest for a new momma, formula drastically changes the PH of a baby’s tummy, damage that may take weeks/months to rectify or, in some cases, can never be repaired.
6. In India, only 23% of Indian women feed their babies within the hour, the most essential factor in establishing breastfeeding.
7. The USA has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding of all most all Western countries – 71% of mothers make an effort to initiate some breastfeeding, yet, 6 months following birth, only 36% of women report that they are breastfeeding
- To learn more about India’s new fantastic breastfeeding initiative please visit: http://www.bpni.org/
- To learn more about La Leche League in India or your area, please visit: http://www.llli.org/India.html
- For more information on the detriments of formula: http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/formula.asp
- For more information on why breast is best: http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/benefits.asp
The next presentation, given by Dr. Manisha Gogri who is also a Childbirth Educator and Mothersupport group leader, examined steps people can take to prevent an over medicalized birth. You can access some of these resources through several websites:
1. Here is a list of questions that can help you explore your childbirth choices and asses whether or not your doctor provides mother-friendly care: http://motherfriendly.org/resources/10Q/
2. For more resources on choosing a caregiver and your right to choices in childbirth, visit: http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ClickedLink=247&ck=10158&area=27
Dr. Manisha is a shining example of the growing number of physicians dedicated to advocating and supporting the manifold benefits of natural birth!
On the Saturday the 19th, we showed three films:
1. Breast Crawl – This video was a partnership between the Indian government and UNICEF to demonstrate the new born baby’s ability to spontaneously crawl to the Momma’s breast: http://breastcrawl.org/video.htm
Note: Although this film does portray a baby’s amazing ability provide for its own needs, I think it should have been filmed in a way that provided more privacy for the women and her child – welcome to the Indian way of doing things!
3. The Business of Being Born – Ricki Lake’s new film about the state of maternity care in the US: http://www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com/
“Birth is a miracle, a rite of passage, a natural part of life. But birth is
also big business. Compelled to explore the subject after the delivery of her first
child, actress Ricki Lake recruits this filmmaker to question the way
American women have babies. The film maker gains access to several pregnant
New York City women as they weigh their options.
Some of these women are or will become clients of Cara
Muhlhahn, a charismatic midwife who, between birth events, shares both
memories and footage of her own birth experience. A must-see movie for
anyone even thinking about having a baby.”
3. Birthday – A beautiful film showing a family-center home waterbirth of filmmaker cum midwife’s third child! I recommend that all expectant mother’s watch this film!
My summary of my trip would not be complete without mentioning the privilege I had to meet to two amazing midwives who, over the course of the weekend, discovered that they had worked with the same midwife at a birth center in the Philippines – it’s a small world, especially the baby world!
Red, the first midwife I met, has been working in a rural charity hospital located in a village in Gujarat. I felt an instant connection to her as her experience in Gujarat echoes my experiences in a government hospital. After meeting her, I was truly inspired to become a midwife!
Lina, the second midwife I met, has spent the last 20 years traveling around the world as a midwife. She spoke a ton of languages and was a storehouse of knowledge about birth and life in general! I wish I could have spent more time pouring through book a overflowing with handwritten stories and pictures of births she has assisted – she said she had five more of these treasures back in the Philippines!
These two women made my 36 hours in Mumbai one of the inspiring and encouraging experiences of my life! I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity share with them stories, tears, frustrations, and dreams.