August 16, 2021
Of course, as in many cultures, breast is best they say! As an Indian American, Moulee felt this pressure to breastfeed, which is the traditional expectation in her culture. She said people checked in to make sure she was breastfeeding. Or asked surreptitious questions to find out. But Moulee said that through her experiences with breastfeeding her two daughters, she learned how to take the best of both cultures and live her life with those values and norms. She loves that she is both Indian and American.
Moulee’s breastfeeding journey with her first baby was not an easy one. Her daughter was born premature and was too weak to nurse so her only choice was to pump. She faced judgement regarding this choice from family, who found this unnatural and pressured her to nurse constantly in order to get her daughter to eat. And to stop pumping. Moulee said that she “finds it especially tedious for my generation because we are trying to hold on to the goodness of our roots and also letting go of the shaming.”
Moulee persevered and kept her focus on her daughter, pumping and giving her breastmilk. Moulee said the expectations and cultural and familial pressure definitely took a toll on her mental health. While she was not prepared for this during her first baby, she knew she had to protect herself and focus on the cultural norms that were beneficial for her and her second baby, who came along, tiny, mighty and hungry! They worked hard to nurse the first four months. Moulee was pumping but also breastfeeding and trying to perfect her latch. Moulee said she utilized traditional recipes passed down for generations to make lactation bites and other treats to increase supply, which helped her stay healthy and maintain her supply. At her 4-month mark, she was finally able to exclusively breastfeed, which she declares happily was a huge achievement. Moulee credits and appreciates the help she had from her village – her friends and sisters to get to that point.
Moulee’s mantra “haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate” centers on creating a positive environment for herself and her family. “Give your energy to the people who bring light to your life, who encourage you to accept you exactly as you are. And most importantly, ask for what you need and deserve! If you don’t ask, no one can help you…Take the goodness, accept the support, and let go of the impractical cultural expectations that are holding you back.”
Both feeding journeys were very different for Moulee and her daughters. While exclusively pumping with her first, it was a lot of hard work and stress. When she had her second baby, she was mentally prepared for not only breastfeeding itself, but for the cultural pressure and expectations that come along with it. What is Moulee’s advice for someone facing cultural expectations in their feeding journey? “In today’s world, it is essential to focus on the positive of any situation. Accept that cultures are different, learn from each other and grow together. Side by side, we can help each other.”
Moulee Patel is Indian American mother of two young girls and a recently retired donor mom. Moulee donated a total of 638 ounces while breastfeeding her now 1-year-old daughter. Moulee is passionate about breastfeeding and working to raise awareness and support for breastfeeding moms. In honor of Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Awareness Week we asked Moulee how her breastfeeding journey has been influenced by her Indian-American heritage. To read Moulee’s donor mom story, click here.
For more information on becoming on breastfeeding support or becoming a donor mom, visit www.texasmilkbank.org.