As the world celebrates the Breastfeeding Week, a woman from Panvel, Mumbai, has raised some serious concerns about feeding babies in hospitals.
Jincy Varghese, a 31-year-old software professional, has moved a petition through Change.org to urge hospitals not to feed formula milk to newborn babies sans parental consent. Varghese, who was the voice behind the Maternity Bill amendment, started another petition in September last year. The change.org petition talks about the RightToBreastfeed. Shethepeople.tv spoke to Varghese to know her story and motives behind the change.org petition.
Sharing her story, Varghese said, “I’m a first time mom, my baby was born last year in February. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant. After my baby was born, he was kept in NICU to monitor his sugar levels and was fed formula without our consent. I did not make it an issue then, as I really did not know that formula is not good and it’s important to take parents’ consent before giving it to the baby. Luckily, he was kept there only for a day. But after his discharge, I was facing issues of feeding. But I thought that it is only happening to me.”
Explaining the usage of formula milk, she said, “Essentially, formula milk should only be used when the mother can’t feed or if the mother isn’t around for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the best option for a new born baby. Formula is only used in emergency cases, only when there is no other way out. Even if you’re feeding the child formula, consent of the parents needs to be taken, as it is not as easily digestible as breast milk. It is a substitute, but not as good as breast milk.”
Social media spreading awareness
Varghese got to know about such practices by hospitals through a Facebook group. She adds, “One of friend added me on a group, “Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers”. From that group, I learnt that a lot of mothers go through the same challenges that I did. In many hospitals in India, formula is fed to the baby without parents’ consent.”
“So I realized that it is a very common problem. A lot of babies are fed formula without the consent of the parents. Keeping this is mind, the group admins, Adhunika Prakash and Madhu Panda, started this petition, to make it mandatory for hospitals to ask for parental consent before feeding formula to babies. The group then had a good number of around 50,000 members, but it was shocking to see that only around 1,000 people had supported the petition. It was very disappointing to know that people were not supporting the cause. After that I contacted the group Admin to know how I could help.”
She added, “Earlier, the petition was run as a group, but then the admins decided to convert it into a personal campaign. I became a part of the campaign as I had faced the same problem. Though I wasn’t really willing to take up the second petition so soon, as it takes a lot of time, energy and patience. Also, I’m a working woman and now I’ve to take care of my baby also. But I took the decision of running the petition because I really believed in the cause and wanted to bring about a change. Initially, the change.org petition did not receive many signatures, but it slowly picked momentum, especially when it got media attention. Until date, it has around 43,000 signatures.”
A step towards change
Talking about the demand, she said, “I want that consent is taken from parents before feeding formula to babies and educating new parents about challenges that they can face breastfeeding the child. They should not feel that they are the only ones in the world gong through difficulties while breasttfeeding. It is required that the doctors make mothers aware that you will face some problems when breastfeeding, as it is a common phenomenon. The doctors usually give a very causal reply, it will take time and things will be sorted. But you need an assurance. So it is important that the mother is made aware that such things might occur in future and it is nothing to worry about. Counselling parents is required to avoid panic situations after the baby is born.
There is a little awareness from the government’s side about the importance of breastfeeding and breast milk. But no one is actually talking about the problems that surround it. Educating about the issues that might be faced by the parents is what is lacking in the system and it is very imperative.”
Varghese added, “Devendra Fadnavis, Pankaja Munde and Maneka Gandhi are already receiving updates about the petition. Also, I had personally written to Maneka Gandhi when I started the petition. This is a good time to raise these issues as it is the Breastfeeding Week, but I haven’t received any updates from the government yet.”
Picture Credit: The Hindu
Megha Thadani is an Intern with Shethepeople.tv