My name is Shringar Bedi, I hail from a middle class family from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. I am a full time professional in the humanitarian space and a full time mother. I currently work with Action Against Hunger on preventing and treating malnutrion in children. One of the key messages in our prevention-based model is the importance of immediate and exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life. Working with mothers, village leaders and communities at large, I find solace in the fact that I am helping them avoid the mistakes I made early on during motherhood.
I became a mother in 2008. On the day of the delivery, I did not get to see my child since the delivery was cesarean. When I enquired about feeding, I was told that anesthesia administered during a cesarean could be harmful for the child and they were providing him formula milk. I wanted my child to be placed with me, but my family agreed with the hospital’s advice. I was able to see my child and be in physical contact with him only after 2 days. When it was time to breastfeed, my baby could not latch and feed properly, we had to do it via a painful method involving a syringe. I was advised to keep doing it at home, but it did not work. With my family member too clueless about it, my child did not receive breastfeeding and continued to be on formula milk. Before he completed six months, I would sometimes give him water on hot days thinking he might be thirsty.
I learned about complementary feeding through my neighbors. While I did start giving him mashed potatoes and fruits, I was not fully aware about the importance of micronutrients and wholesome nutrition post six months. I learnt about diverse nutrition and its constituents much later. For instance, the fact that carbohydrate rich food may give you all the calories you need but not the micronutrients needed for growth was news to me.
After joining the nutrition sector in 2016, I realized I was not alone in being uninformed about childcare and feeding practices. Mothers and families often do not have access to critical information that could help them to defeat malnutrition and related illnesses. This has started changing now through targeted interventions by ICDS, NHM and POSHAN Abhiyan and various nonprofit organizations. Special days and events such as the breastfeeding week and national nutrition month have been instrumental in spreading much needed awareness. The long-term solution to this information gap in my opinion is including relevant literature on health, pregnancy and childcare in formal education. For now, I am happy that through my work, I am gradually bridging this information gap and helping communities raise healthy children.
Shringar Bedi works with the Advocacy department at Action Against Hunger and has previously worked in the education, WASH, skill development and family health and planning space in the past 16 years.