Aug 2, 2010
(World Breast-feeding Week is being celebrated from August 1 to 7).
Will Durant says: “ No man who is in a hurry is quite civilised”. But, personal characteristics like hurry are often ascribed to heredity which has two parts – mother and father. Of their respective roles, Charles Dickens says: “The virtues of mothers shall occasionally be visited upon the children, as well as the sins of the fathers.” Which of these have preponderance is a matter of conjecture. There is a cynical saying that mother is a fact and father myth.
But one thing is obvious. Mother has a physical relationship with children spread over two distinct periods – the traditionally accepted nine months in the womb and the breast-feeding period which can extend up to two years or more, even if there is nothing to feed on. Beyond feeding, there is physical bonding between mothers and their children.
Coming back to heredity, one writer says: “Nearly every man is a firm believer in heredity until his son makes a fool of himself.” I have made a fool of myself many times over. But my family doesn’t blame it on heredity. They blame it on the breast milk I had from many sources besides my mother. She was frail and had no milk for her son. But, there were a number of workers who had settled on our farm. They had their own fresh brood and the mothers were in lactation. I was made to take turns to have their breast milk. So, any wrong I did later was promptly disowned by my family and ascribed to the farm workers who were kind enough to breast-feed me.
So, if I do anything wrong or stupid my mother is kept out of the line of responsibility for it. Breast-feeding by the farm workers, as in my case, is nothing uncommon in rural societies. But, in modern urban society, some mothers do not want to breast feed their children, mainly for two reasons – cosmetic and career. Career advancement requires the shortest possible maternity leave, leaving the child to be fed on alternate baby foods. Secondly, mothers may not want to spoil their figure with children suckling on their breast. National and international health organisations have declared that the breast-feeding is the best nourishment and to promote it there are even bans on baby food advertising.
If the mother is unwilling to breast-feed her baby what is the way out? Surrogate breast-feeding like the one I had without having the high sounding name. Surrogate motherhood is in vogue for women who can’t have their own babies or do not want to have because stretch marks and low strung sarees go ill together or even the fear of child-bearing and delivery.
Surrogate breast-feeding is a simpler process. Initially one may have to look out for lactating mothers in the neighbourhood. This can develop into a major business like play schools and kindergarten for kids. There can emerge day care centres where surrogate breast-feeders can offer their services in shifts, allowing mothers to pursue their careers and maintain their tout figures. It is a fair exchange where those who can afford pay for breast-milk from those who may need the money. It is like professional blood “donation”.
It may also help parents to disown responsibility for the deviant behavior of their offspring by blaming it all on surrogate breast-feeding. We have an expression:” Hope lives eternal in the human breast “. Under the surrogate breast-feeding regime, we may have a mimic expression: “Hope lives eternal in the mother’s breast”.
John B, Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
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