Monday, December 7, 2015

A Letter to My Son on His 2nd Birthday

My Shona,

It's birthday time! Yours and mine. For truly, so much of me was born with you today, two years ago. Two years. Already! Where did they go?

It seems like only yesterday when I first saw you. A little, tiny cherub . .. all mine! As you cried out, so did I. Tears of overwhelming happiness and joy that I'd never known before.

And look at you now. Such a bundle of energy you are today. I do miss my little baby sometimes whom I could snuggle and cuddle any time. But the toddler that has replaced him is no less precious.

Be it that naughty gleam in your eyes or the way you pose for a picture, you have your own ways of doing everything. Your dadda and I think aloud almost every day that we'll spoil you to bits with all this pampering, but then you deserve it all and so much more.

You've taught us so much in these years, lessons of love and patience, of giving and caring. Every day is a new day with you and every moment is a little surprise.

You're growing up into a fine little boy. You surprise us with your attention to detail and your fantastic memory. Every time I see you throwing a wrapper nowhere else but in a dustbin, washing your hands before a meal or offering what you're having to others around, I give a little pat on my back. For every good thing you do, is a reflection of the upbringing we are giving you.

You are curious. You are very inquisitive. And you are very sensitive and caring too. You know where mumma keeps her migraine pills and would rush to get it the moment you know mumma isn't feeling well. You'll get the bottle of water along too. And it's these little things that I wouldn't ever want to fade away in you.

As you grow, you'll become more independent, and while the selfish human in me would want to hold you closer, the mother in me will let you loose. To go on and explore the world and to make it brighter with your very presence, just like you've made ours.

Yes, I'm scared to let you on all by yourself, for I can not, and neither do I know how to, make the world a safer place for you. But together, we'll prepare to make you ready to be on your own, little by little, step by step. No, you needn't do great things. Just do the right things every time and follow your heart, for there's nothing that cannot be moved by passion and hard work. Put your heart to things and everything else will follow.

Grow up to be a good human being, no matter which profession you choose. Be sensible and be kind. Wipe the tears around and bring happiness everywhere. And always be the little sunshine that you are, lighting up everyone's lives with your smile and big heart.

Love and lots more of love,
Your proud mumma

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Toddler at home? Some Fun Ways to Engage Them!

So, I'm now a full time mother who works part time! When it comes to spending time in front of your system in office, hours fly by effortlessly most of the days, with colleagues and the boss ensuring you've enough to keep yourself occupied. But now, with no deadlines to meet or endless meetings and conference calls, days fly by even faster!

Yeah, it's my little toddler who keeps me in my toes (literally!) and wouldn't budge till he's not given his due attention. At times, it's difficult to match up with that level of energy. After all, I'm not getting any younger by the day. But there are some things they keep him busy for a few precious minutes, while I catch my breath.

If you're looking for ways to occupy your toddler for hours, be warned. Anything as 'long' as 20 minutes is considered phenomenal here. For toddlers have the attention span of a squirrel. Yeah, you know what I mean :)

A card of bindis - This by far is my son's favourite. He loves bindis and can play with them several times a day. I've kept a card of it aside and usually put back whatever is still usable from his face, legs and even the sheets!

A basket filled with random objects - Which toddler doesn't love exploring? And the more assorted the objects, the better.

Empty boxes and bottles - Cap, uncap, open, close, check, repeat!

Books - I keep a few books at an accessible distance for him and change them every couple of days. He picks one whenever he feels like to read and can now sit in a place for as long as 20 minutes while we read a book and look at the pictures.

Crayons and a doodle pad - When I first got him a set of crayons, people said it was too early. But he has loved them since the first time. He can now hold a crayon and make dots and lines and even attempts a circle :)

Shape sorting board - This is his latest fancy. He'd take out each shape and try to fit them back on the board. Another activity that we can do sitting in one place!

So, here are a few of the many things we do to make our days fun and interesting. C'mon mommies! Share your fun and engaging play time activities too.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Yes, I'm a Proud Breastfeeding Mumma :)

During pregnancy, we read all sorts of things about the 9 months and the journey after that. I was no different. I was monitoring every change in my body and comparing it with the texts and the Internet, all of which helped me become more confident and prepared.

Amid all this, there was one thing that I read but didn't give much thought to. I considered it very natural and nothing to be fretted about really. It was during my second trimester, I was on a call with a relative and she suggested that I could leave the baby with someone when I go for shopping or even a vacation. I responded saying it wouldn't be possible as I'd be breastfeeding. The reply that came from the other end was, "How will you breastfeed when you won't have enough milk?"

That comment infuriated me. Naturally! But it also got me preparing for the worst scenario - what if I didn't have enough milk? And then, there were many things that I learned which I didn't know till then.

I learned that I had to be assertive and tell people at the hospital that I WANT to breastfeed exclusively.

I had to let those around me know that I'll make enough milk to satiate my baby and do not need anyone to measure it for me.

I had to get away from all kinds of negative people and thoughts that would affect my breastfeeding journey or make it stressful.

Was all of this easy?


Of course, everyone around had their own views and experiences. What annoyed me the most was when people would question me whether I was giving my son top feed or not.

No, I didn't and why would I do that either?

The replies I'd get were infuriating and amusing at the same time.

"You'll get some rest while someone else feeds the baby with dabba wala doodh! (formula)"

"You'll able to go out, without having to worry about feeding your baby."

"The baby will not be clingy and get used to being away from you."

The reasons they gave were endless.

But all my well-meaning well wishers realised, sooner or later, that this woman will not budge. And she's better left alone.

I was sure that I'll exclusively breastfeed my baby till 6 months.

Was it easy? No. 

But it wasn't that difficult either. It did mean a whole lot of life changing decisions.

It meant that I be confined to my room for months with a newborn, trying to understand his feeding pattern, if not really predict.

It meant that every time my baby cried, eyebrows raised questioning if 'I was making enough milk'.

It meant learning time management better and taking a shower in 2 minutes, or better yet, postponing it endlessly to the next break between nursing sessions.

It meant sleepless nights with my baby latched on, while trying to adjust innumerable pillows to soothe a very aching back.

It meant waking up with pains and aches in your body and then sitting through another feeding session with your groggy self.

It meant restricting your outings or going to only those places where I could feed my baby.

It also meant meeting only those people who would understand that you cannot have a coffee without a nursing and a diaper change break.

It meant getting down to almost zero social interaction with minimal social outings.

Above everything, it meant being there physically and whole heartedly for your little one, at every time of day or night.

To say that breastfeeding has been a very smooth journey, would not be entirely correct. We had our issues latching initially. But yes, it's been the most fulfilling one. To know that I'm able to provide my little one with the best that I can, despite all odds.

I still wake up with an aching back every morning. Breastfeeding is a blessing I'm thankful for every morning and night. For when my son wouldn't eat, would be teething or would be ill, it still nourishes him and comforts both of us. While the health benefits of breastfeeding are innumerable, so is the inner satisfaction you get when you know you're providing your baby with the nourishment that only a mother can.

It has changed me. Yes. I've slowed down. No longer I'm multi tasking or juggling with several things at once. Even now, as we sit down for nursing, I'm reminded of how beautiful my life has become when those innocent eyes look into mine and give a smile that just the two of us share.

If given a choice, I would not change a thing about this phase of my life. It's beautiful and breastfeeding has made it even fulfilling. No, nursing isn't easier than giving your baby formula. Both are difficult, but then, raising a child is not easy either :)

So, here's to all beautiful mommies out there. Take pride in your breastfeeding journey and encourage every mother to do it for her baby.

Happy Breastfeeding Week, Mommies :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Baby Led Weaning - An approach that changed me

The first food that our paediatrician advised when Prabir completed 6 months was Cerelac. I didn't find anything wrong with that either as that's what I've seen most babies in the family eat.

We went to the store and bought a flavour that we thought our son would like. And the first day, I held the spoon near his mouth, he rejected it outright. I kept at it and tried for 3 days until I kept the box of Cerelac away for good.

I then started with suji (semolina) porridge, and dal and rice, and introduced fruits and veggies gradually. When he didn't eat as much as I would have liked him to, which happened almost every time, I fretted and worried. When he demanded to breastfeed soon after having some solids, I blamed myself for not giving him enough to eat as he was clearly hungry.

Nothing and no one helped either. I was told to let him watch the television to make him eat. Or may be distract him with toys, which I confess I have done. There would be a whole lot of toys with us as we started a meal and each one was a mission. After all, mumma had to ensure that the sonny eats as much as 'she' would like him to.

It was in his 8th month that I bumped into a group on Facebook. How that happened I barely remember, but it was no less than a miracle. I read all about baby led weaning (blw) and was determined that it was the right approach for my baby and me.

The first thing I needed to do here was to unlearn all that I had known about feeding babies all this while.

  • Breastmilk or formula is the primary source of nutrition for the first year - And there I would make myself sick worrying when my son demanded breastfeed after a meal.
  • Stop feeding mashed or pureed food - While I never really did either, I used to overcook to make the food easy to swallow. BLW made me realise that the baby can chew and needs to start now, whether or not he has teeth as their gums are hard enough. The consistency of the food needed to be such that it is firm to hold and yet easy on the gums to chew. I've seen grown up kids in my family swallow food with water till date and that's not what I wanted for my son.
  • The mother decides what and when, and the baby decides how much - This required the control freak in me to take a backseat and let my son decide how much he wanted to eat and not how much I'd like him to.
  • No forcefeeding or distraction - The toys had to go and the child should have a proper place to have their meals. We were already using a highchair for meals, so this wasn't as difficult.
  • Encourage self feeding - Now, here is what required most patience. With a never ending to do list, it was difficult to let the baby be and sit through while he explored, tasted, threw, poured and massaged it all over himself. Even more difficult is to see the mess with the baby throwing food all around. Every post meal wash became a mini bath with complete change of clothes. Yes, that's how messy it can get!
  • The baby eats what the family eats - This meant that no separate meals needed to be made, just the salt had to go and the spices had to checked.
  • The whole idea is to let my baby explore food, feel different textures and get to know their own taste and system better.

As I read all about BLW, I ordered a book 'My Child won't Eat'. Reading it changed my thoughts and views about feeding my son completely. No longer was I a worried mumma thinking about what my son ate or didn't eat. Meal times became more enjoyable and we started having our food together.

At 19 months, here's where we stand-

  • We eat our meals together.
  • Prabir knows how much he wants or needs to eat.
  • He knows that he won't be forced to eat anything that he doesn't want or like.
  • He's eager to try different food.
  • He's getting better at eating with a spoon all by himself and knows how to use a fork too.
  • He doesn't need water to swallow food and knows that he needs to finish what's in his mouth and then drink water, if he needs to.
  • He knows his 'no' to something will be respected.

Even today, there are days when he would barely take a spoonful or two or completely skip a meal. I'll be honest to say that the mother in me still frets at times, but I'm not worried anymore. As my son can decide for himself when it comes to eating.

This post, in no way, is to endorse Blw as the only or the best way to introduce solids to a child. This is an approach that has worked beautifully for us and that's why this mumma swears by it.

While it's given a sense of control to my son and is a major step for him towards getting independent, it has given a sense of relief to this mumma. All I do is follow my baby's cues and ensure that I offer him balanced and nutrition meals. For the rest, he's the boss :)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Here's How YOU can Help a New Maa :)

When Prabir arrived, I was overwhelmed and knew little how to go about things around me. Even regular and routine things became big tasks as I struggled and fumbled as a new Maa.

And isn't that what happens everywhere? When a new baby arrives, there's a flutter in every heart around. From the new parents to new aunties, uncles, grand mothers and grand fathers, everyone wants the new baby to be comfortable and happy.

However, often, we tend to ignore the new Maa who needs equal love and help. Had it not been for my two sisters and bua (paternal aunt), we (hubs and I) would not have been able to manage. And for all that they've done for me, I'd be forever indebted.

So, if there's a new baby in your home or if one's arriving soon, here are a few ways you can make things better for the new parents and child. 

Help prepare the hospital bag - The expecting mother would need help in her shopping trips to get the bag packed. You could also divide the items in the list and volunteer to buy them after the baby arrives, as many cultures do not allow you to shop before the baby is born. 

Help arrange the nursery/wardrobe - The new entrant would need space of their own. It becomes difficult and tiring for an expecting mommy to bend or sit for long hours in the run up to labour. Not to mention that it's almost impossible to do it when the baby finally arrives. So, go ahead and help stack diapers and clothes for the little one. Set up the little one's crib and arrange their little cot. You have no idea how much it'll help. 

Pick out the stuff for mumma and baby every morning along with other regular things- These things might sound too small, but trust me, they go a long way for a sleep deprived new Maa. My younger sister would pick out clothes for us every morning. I got so used to it that it was difficult doing it myself after she left. There are many other things here that you can do like stacking the diaper/nappies pile, getting the laundry done, keeping things within the mother's reach, etc . These are little, but count a lot.

Volunteer to rock and hold the baby - Babies know their others right from the day they are born. Prabir would not be calm with anyone else, but me, for the first few months. Yet, there were times I needed to get some time off, even if that meant 5 precious minutes. My aunt would hold him in his favorite position, while my elder sister would rock Prabir and even sing the same lullaby as I put my feet up for some rest. So, pick up cues when the new Maa would like some help with rocking or holding the baby.  

Get going with the household chores - A new Maa would forever be indebted to one who'd take over the household chores for her. My bua did that and I cannot thank her enough. Not only did that help me establish a bond with my newborn, but also got a good and balanced diet that a breastfeeding mother should have. 

Spend time with the new mother - Post partum depression is real. I too did go through it, though slightly, but thanks to my support system, I was able to push through it. Just talking it all out and talking and laughing at things other than this new phase can help a new Maa feel so much better. 

Surprises are always nice - Yes, shopping trips are bare minimum, if at all, for a new mother. And whoever visits, only brings gifts for the little one. While I love all gifts that come my son's way, the little sweet things someone got me some time or another was thoughtful and precious too. A chocolate bar counts too.

While one may not think much of these things as you read, but ask any mother and she'll recall exactly how people around her helped her when she gave birth.

A good support system can help a new mother function so much better. And most of us, especially in India, are gifted with it as our folks would come flying to us, at extremely short notice, just to be there. Such things not only help the new mother care better for her little one and herself, but also strengthens the bond between you and her.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Things I was Told Vs The Things I Did

As a mother, you are judged. No matter whether your child is a few days old or a few years, you'll always get those disproving looks from people you may or may not know. You'll be given lots of advice you may or may not need. And you'll be judged for every action or decision you take pertaining your child.

I didn't have it easier either. As a first time mother (ftm), while I was still grappling with my new life, I was told to do or not to do many things. And at times, was literally compelled to do things for the 'wellness' of my child.

Here are a few gems :)

Crying is good for the baby. Let him be. He'll learn to self soothe.
Really? I'd not leave an adult alone when they're upset or crying, let alone my baby. A baby needs the mother or primary caregiver 'all the time' and doesn't know what is self soothing. They need to be held, loved and made to feel secure and are not to be left to cry it out.

Don't carry the baby all the time. You'll spoil their habit.
I carried my son all the time till he started crawling. He would just not lie down, especially for his day naps and would cry murder the moment I put him down. Most of the time, I wore him while I went around doing my work and, eventually, mastered the art of doing everything with one hand. Today, at almost 18 months, he wants to walk and be on his own. If you try to carry him, he'd protest. The fact is babies don't always remain babies. They grow up.... too soon.

Top up with formula. You'll need it.
And why? Breastfeeding is the most convenient form of feeding I know. And apart from the nutrition it gives my baby, it gives him security, comfort, warmth and love.

Ensure he eats at least 2 times after 6 months.
Yes, I admit I gave in to this initially and regret it. But soon enough, I started following my baby's cues and understood that breastmilk or formula is and should be the main source of nutrition for the baby till 1 year. I let my baby explore food and followed baby led weaning. And trust me, I cannot be happier for taking this decision.

Extended breastfeeding will make the baby dependent and insecure.
To this, I'd say to come and meet my son. And if it's a problem that my son likes to be around with his mom or dad all the time, it's only natural for a toddler his age.

4 months? He should be rolling. 6 months? Not standing with support yet! One year old and not walking! OMG!!! I have become a pro at turning a deaf ear to such things. My baby sat without support at 4.5 months, but rolled only at 7 months and started walking at 14 months. Every baby is different. And I'd rather enjoy and celebrate every milestone than fret about it 'getting delayed'.

Don't rock the baby to sleep. You'll have to do it for years to come.
I've rocked and sung my baby to sleep almost till he was almost a year old. Then, suddenly, one day, he nursed, rolled over to the other side and slept off. And it has been like this ever since. I really miss the rocking and singing though.

Give the baby salt and sugar, else he won't like and neither eat regular food ever.
I gave absolutely no salt or sugar to my son till he was 1. There are enough research and studies that show how harmful these two things are. Hence, the lesser, the better. Now, though he eats the regular food that we eat, but if something is cooked for him separately, it's still without the two. He enjoys his food that way and eats what he's offered if he likes it or is hungry. And for those fretting about him getting less sodium etc, he gets it in natural form from various other foods, fruits and veggies, and of course, breastmilk.

Why don't you give the bottle?
Simple, because he likes having in his cup. And I'm proud of it.

Give cow milk. Breastmilk isn't enough!
It is, says WHO :)

Leave the child with someone else. They'll get used to it.
Yes, I'm a possessive mother, but I'd never let my baby not enjoy all the love and attention he gets from people who love him. If he's happy and comfortable with someone, and safe, I'll not think twice leaving him with them. That being said, I'll not force my kid to be with someone just so they get used to the idea. If he isn't happy, he wouldn't be forced to do it. 

It's okay if strangers want to hold him.
Really? Sorry, I don't think it's even worth answering why not.

It's okay to give junk food.
Junk is NOT OKAY. Period.
I've had someone offer my son Haldiram Punjabi Tadka Namkeen (very spicy) when he was 10 months. I turned around just in time and literally shrieked. And since then, never left my son alone with that person. Case of lost trust. For ever!

Again, extensive reading and research came to my aid and always does. Today, I am regarded as one of those stubborn mothers who doesn't listen or adhere to time and tested things (read as myths). And do I regret it? No. For the sole reason that I know 'what' I'm doing and am a part of strong networks of mothers who know their thing.

The most important thing I've learned is to trust my instincts and that no one knows my baby better than me. Because I'm the mother.

Be back soon.

Till then, take care and stay precious :)