Motherhood is all about hit and miss experiences. If one thing works for one mother, it may not work for another. For actor Neha Dhupia, anything cooked in coconut milk turned out to be an elixir in her breastfeeding journey at one point!
Neha, who has an over two-year-old daughter named Mehr with husband Angad Bedi, and who is currently expecting their second child, spoke to HealthShots about the dietary changes she inculcated while she was nursing her firstborn, and much more on breastfeeding on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week.
“Sometimes you eat something and then you’re like ‘Yay! Instead of 3 ounces, I have made 6 ounces (of milk)’. And sometimes on an average if you make 10 ounces, then you’re like ‘THIS works for me’,” says Neha, recounting an instance she had while shooting in Kerala.
“All gravies cooked in coconut milk worked for me. I started consuming that, and after a point, I was like ‘No, no, I don’t want anything cooked in coconut curry anymore’. And till now, I don’t want it because I had so much of it in one month that time,” adds the actor and former beauty queen, who has emerged as an advocate for breastfeeding.
Neha exclusively breastfed Mehr for the first six months, and then gradually complemented it with a meal of semi-solids, after which she added a little formula to her diet. “I still continue to breastfeed her,” says Neha who believes that no mother needs to be subjected to judgment about the duration for which they breastfeed their child.
In fact, for everything related to breastfeeding, the mother should have the choice!
While she acknowledges that the fears of getting engorged breasts or getting sore nipples, facing sleepless nights, and endless exhaustion come with the territory, the wonders of breastfeeding are far more fulfilling.
“The longer you can do it for… great! If you can’t do it, it’s okay, because if you decide not to breastfeed your child, it does not mean that you’re not an amazing mom. You don’t even want to win that medal because you know that nobody can love your child the way you do. If you decide not to do it, I’m a huge advocate of giving women and especially new moms all the space. You’re still a supermom,” Neha tells HealthShots on an encouraging note.
“Honestly, just hot water bags, because you’re just holding the baby so much. Also, you don’t actually need too many creams to put on yourself because breast milk is liquid gold and it cures everything! Apart from that, I just used a pump and a sterilizer, because I was also expressing milk… and uff, that journey is going to begin again, and I know that nobody in the world can prepare you for it. It is exhausting,” Neha gushes.
On a personal note, she shares that she would want to breastfeed even her second child for as long as she can.
“I have it in my ability if my baby latches, like the first one did. And professionally, if I have to make some choices like maybe expressing milk and sending it back home from set like I did in my first pregnancy, I will. The hustle is constant,” adds the actor, who believes that the best thing about being pregnant the second time over is that your “experience is your best and most amazing expert that you can refer back to”.
Neha is also all for the World Breastfeeding 2021 theme of ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility’.
Breastfeeding itself, she feels, kicks off the first part of equal parenting in the post-pregnancy phase. And she gives her husband a 100/100 for being a constant pillar of support.
“Whether it was sterilizing the breast pump or burping Mehr after her breastfeed, pump, or if I would express milk and send it home if I was late, he would make sure it was the right time to give her the milk. He is just so hands-on,” shares Neha, stressing on the importance of people and the environment in easing the breastfeeding experience for a mother and child.
Like she says, breastfeeding cannot be a choice of the workplace you’re in!
“If you need to bring your baby to work, because your baby’s feeding, that’s a choice the mother should have. Not your employer, not the HR department, not the value of the real estate of your office,” Neha asserts, citing an instance when she checked with one of Mumbai’s grandest malls about a breastfeeding space for nursing moms.
The answer left her shocked. “He said, ‘In the bathroom, there’s a sofa there’!”
And so, Neha says, “People need to normalize breastfeeding, and they need to stop sexualizing it. And I still feel this is one of those aspects in which women in urban areas are far more empowered. People have to give us space to feed. And by that, I also mean stop staring at us when we do it!”
The most liberating moment for her was when she was on a beachside vacation at an international destination.
She recounts, “I was by the beach, feeling the wind on my face, watching the sunset… I had Mehr on me and I was feeding her… Where can I do it here? Nowhere!”