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Weaning and Acne

In Why on 21 March 2015 at 8:00 pm

I am 33 and nursing my daughter.  I stopped pumping at work a couple of months ago.  I have noticed that lately, I am experiencing a lot of acne on face, around jaw line and neck.   I haven’t changed my diet drastically and was wondering if the nursing schedules or drop in pumping may be causing the acne.  Is there any natural stuff that I could use to control the crazy breakouts?

Mama of two in Austin

You are not the only one to experience an outbreak of acne following a sudden drop in nursing frequency.  It seems like any time we go through hormonal changes we are prone to acne.   You may already be aware that breast milk is a popular treatment for acne.  Once the hormones settle down so should the acne.   Some home remedies that might help include reducing intake of dairy and animal products, which come loaded with hormones, getting regular exercise, and the usual good dietary habits.

Acne apart, if you are nursing less during the day you can expect your daughter to make up for it at night and early in the morning.  Be sure to eat well and get enough rest and night-nursing will be boon to you as well as your daughter.

Baby-led Weaning

In How on 30 October 2014 at 5:24 am

I want Ragi“What do you think of baby-led weaning?”

I was calmly chopping vegetables with Radhika, a friend and member of Ask Amma today when she asked me this question.  What is baby-led weaning?  I thought.

“What are the possible thoughts about this?”  I asked.

“I mean, should you purée the food?  What about the baby food they sell in the store?”

Hmm … As someone who never bought baby food from the store, and who did not purée food that is not normally puréed, I had to take a few steps back to answer this question. Read the rest of this entry »

Weaning … and Free Learning

In How on 27 October 2011 at 3:00 am

My weaning story, originally titled “Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning,” was edited and published in Breastfeeding Today, October 2011 here on page 14. I think they did a decent job condensing.  Here is what I wrote in 2009:

Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning

Weaning: Fountain of Free Learning

     We often hear that nursing a baby provides not only food but also love, comfort and immunity.  As a mother, I found it was all this and more.  I discovered breastfeeding to be a quintessential experience of free learning, right up to and including child-led graduating.   Natural, free, unscheduled, ungraded, untested and self-guided, the experience of breastfeeding gives the child far more than nutrition or even the oft-remarked “brain-boosting DHA.”  Reflecting back on nursing my daughter, I find that it gave her precious time, space and context to learn numerous life skills – not only eating, but also ways to understand her body, her mind and the world around her.  No one could give her a certificate that she had learned.  She moved on when she was ready.

*   *   *   *  *

It is over year since my daughter’s last breastfeeding.  She weaned over a period of 2-3 months, as the gaps between nursings became longer and more frequent … and then I realized it was no longer a gap.  It was all.  One June day when I first noticed a gap of more than a week, I couldn’t resist asking my daughter about it, though I was not sure if I was “supposed” to bring it up at all.  She simply said, “I don’t need it anymore.”  (She did nurse a few more times in July and August.)  My husband gasped, “what?  but you are supposed to have ampa (short for amma-palu, which in Telugu means mama-milk).”  They both giggled.

At the time I hardly talked to anyone about it. I have always been vocal about breastfeeding, calmly answering people who were shocked to see me breastfeed and NIP (nurse-in-public) well past the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 2 years.  Though I was bursting with it, what time or place to bring up the story?  Most of my family and friends might not have known she was “still” nursing, or even thought about it.   Without planning to, I did pour out to one friend, a fleet-footed newlywed engineering consultant in Washington, DC, whose views on breastfeeding or motherhood I knew not in the slightest.   She listened.   We laughed through moist eyes.   Later one day, entirely by luck, I found myself in the library on the day of our monthly La Leche League meeting.  I shared my experience.  Recently I again attended LLL after more than a year’s gap and a couple of moms remembered my story.  They had understood (of course).

They encouraged me to “write it down.”  And so here it is.

I always knew that I would breastfeed.  My mother was in La Leche League when my little sister was born and I went to my first LLL meeting  (as an adult) while I was pregnant. Though we had difficulties in the beginning, we got established after a few days and nursing was smooth after that.   There were ups and downs, of course.  At nine months my daughter loved idlis (steamed rice-and-bean cakes) so much I worried that she was not nursing enough.  At 15 months there was a time when she did not nurse for more than 24 hours and I worried because I knew that was too early to wean.  At 22 months she was nursing like a baby, waking up every 2 hours at night and all.  (Soon after the nursing spurt she had a growth spurt.)  Through all these ups and downs, I never lost confidence in nursing; moreover I had terrific support from and La Leche League online community forums, even though I knew few nursing moms in real life.

When my daughter was three I observed that she was nursing 3-6 times / day.  To sleep, to wake up, once in the middle, and often a couple of times during the day.  I remember noting that it did not seem to be tapering off in any way.  Could this actually end?

When she was 3 ½, I was most grateful that she was nursing.  That winter she got sick three times in three different places  – Delhi, Bombay, and Rasuru (Orissa), each time with high fever, and once with measles.  Each time she nursed right through her illnesses.  Though she was sick and needed to direct all her energy towards healing, she was not uncomfortable.  Through breastfeeding, mostly in her sleep, she was getting plenty of fluids, rest and nutrients.   She certainly couldn’t keep any food down (we tried that too).

Nursing helped our daughter to develop healthy eating habits.  She ate on her own, right from her introduction to ragi (millet) at 6 months, and soft fruits like banana and sapota, soft vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes, plantain, beets, and onwards to grains, beans, and beyond.  She ate whole grains from the beginning – whole millet, brown rice, whole wheat bread, mung and urad dal were also unpeeled.   We simply served her food and she ate as much as she wanted, with her own hand.  We usually ate together.  If she needed more time she would eat by herself as I took care of other work.  Or read a book.  Eating was always a happy and relaxed experience; never a chore, either for her or for us.  Through mother’s milk she became familiar with the diverse tastes of all that I ate; I think that served as a preview to whet her appetite for the real thing. Since she was breastfeeding I knew she was getting her nutrition so it did not matter how much solid food she ate.  With this freedom she embraced, at her own pace, the array of whole, natural foods we prepared.

Weaning from the breast signified not only a transition from one source of food to another, but also a transition in the way my daughter understood herself and dealt with the world. The basic ability to gauge one’s own hunger and satiety, cultivated at the breast, will serve one well at the plate.  Over the years I came to recognize that breastfeeding offers so much more than nutrition.  It offers immunity not only to germs but also to excessive stimuli from the environment.  It nurtures one’s sense of wholeness, it is comfort after a fall or stress, and of course, it is a warm cozy place to let down one’s guard and sleep.  The world offers alternatives for all of these functions, and the child who learns to avail these at her own pace will utilize them wisely.

Because breastfeeding often required me to take my daughter to work, it allowed her to be in interesting environments observing adults busy in various activities.   Also, it gave adults a chance to share time and space with a child and accept a nursing toddler as normal.  One small step towards building our continuum society.

Around age four, I again noticed that she was nursing nearly every night and sometimes during the day as well.  I wondered how long she would nurse, but did little more than wonder.  Once when she skipped a day I spent hours writing in my journal.  What does this mean?  But the next day she was back; meaning was forgotten.

It started soon after her fifth birthday.  Till then she was going strong with no signs of tapering off.  Two weeks later however, I observed that she’d skipped several days.  Was I ready for this?  I couldn’t say she was too young.  She was even past the oft-quoted “worldwide average” of 4.2 years.  So what was I missing?

Wasn’t I now supposed to be celebrating – increased wardrobe choice, one less mile to go before I sleep?  Sure, there would be plenty of days ahead to enjoy that.  Now I was immersed in a rush of feelings, and savoring that rush.   It passes all too quickly.

The author nursing her daughter at the grand canyon, Arizona.

The author nursing her daughter while on a hike.

Aravinda Pillalamarri, 2009


Amma Dudhu: A Farewell Poem

In Field Notes, Poems on 14 December 2015 at 2:42 am

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years and beyond for as long as mother and baby wish.  The benefits of breastfeeding do not disappear at a specific age, but rather continuously prepare children physically, intellectually and emotionally to digest what the world has to offer, literally and figuratively.  Curiosity, experimentation, illness, growth spurts and adaptations to circumstances will prompt children to modulate breastfeeding and eventually outgrow it.

And how do you say goodbye?  In this guest post, Divya Singh, Amma to 3½ year-old Navya in Portland. shares her story along with a poem. 

Last week, my 3½ year-old and I said bye-bye to our breastfeeding relationship on a very happy note…wanted to share this for Ask Amma.

Here’s how it worked out-
Read the rest of this entry »

How can I help my baby sleep at night?

In How on 15 November 2014 at 8:00 pm

My baby wakes up 10 times at night, nursing even when she is not hungry.  How can I peacefully help her sleep at night?

Mother of a 10 month old in Chandigarh

As they say with every phase of breastfeeding, این نیز بگذرد‎, or “this too shall pass.” 

Often it is just when we have figured out how to handle a given situation that it passes, leaving us wondering if it would have passed anyway or our efforts made any difference at all.  Sometimes what we thought was a problem was actually a solution to some other problem we did not recognize.  Once solved, it passes. Read the rest of this entry »

Has your baby doubled her birth weight?

In How on 13 September 2014 at 1:12 pm

When do babies double their birth weight? 

I’ve heard this question so often these days, yet it was not a topic that came up regularly when I was a new mother.  When in doubt, blame the internet.  Sure, we had plenty  internet in 2003 but we didn’t have such ready means of comparing baby weights and collecting ever more factoids over which we could check our status and see how well we were or weren’t keeping up with the Joneses.

So, compared to the new mothers of today who give their babies age  in weeks and continue giving the age to the tenth decimal place,  I actually don’t know exactly when my daughter doubled her birth weight but I can say it was between the age of 7 and 8 months.

Babies on the train.  It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.

Babies on the upper berth. It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.  But they are enjoying the train!

Read the rest of this entry »

Animal milk for children?

In Yes / No on 19 September 2013 at 4:00 pm

Is animal milk (cow or buffalo) essential for a child’s growth?

– Mamma of 2-year old from Hyderabad

Well, of course it depends on whose child it is!  I am sure the zebra, elephant, deer and cow below would each tell you with full confidence that her milk was essential for her child’s growth!

Read the rest of this entry »

How children learn to eat

In How on 23 July 2013 at 4:00 am

How often do we hear that children won’t eat?  No one loves this message more than the food industry, which is ready to jump in with factory-tested flavours and bliss points, adding salt, fat and sugar, flavor, color and stabilizer in indsutrially calibrated quantities to design foods that hold mass appeal.  “Kids today don’t eat food!” declares an advertisement for a popular packaged meal.   On the screen we see a child pushing away a plate of vegetables, dal and roti and brightening up considerably when the packaged bliss comes forth in steaming digitally enhanced ringlets.

How often have we seen parents or grandparents run behind a child with a bowl of food or hire someone to perform this task?   Read the rest of this entry »

Nurturing Good Eating Habits

In How on 27 June 2013 at 8:00 pm

Today’s India Together article “The Obesity Epidemic: Are Parents to Blame?” raises the question of how parents can encourage good eating habits.

While the article raises useful points, it unfortunately retains a top-down approach of parents dictating to children or experts dictating to parents.  This will not work.    What will work is for parents to trust their children from birth.   They neither need to tell their children to eat nor tell them not to eat.

The article touches on the importance of breastfeeding, starting with exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, but does not recognize the full scope of breastfeeding to help nurture good eating habits. Read the rest of this entry »

Is it true that you are still …

In When on 1 July 2012 at 3:29 pm

This article originally appeared in 2006.

Is it true that you are still …
May 2006 / Mumbai

A woman interrupted me last night as I was taking printouts of the petitions we were planning to send to the Prime Minster to stop the Sardar Sarovar project from going up to 121 m. Urging me aside, she told me, “As early as possible you should stop breastfeeding her.”

Nursing my daughter while attending a meeting.

Nursing my daughter while attending a meeting.

She was probably not the only one who noticed when my daughter nursed during the meeting, but she was the only one to state her views so directly.  Unprepared for such a confrontation, I simply said, “I am very busy, and I am not going to stop breastfeeding now.” Seconds later, more crisp responses filled my head … Read the rest of this entry »

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