She backed the on-screen adaptation of the glorious lives of sharpshooters, Chandro and Prakashi Tomar —Saand Ki Aankh—but not many know that Nidhi Parmar Hiranandani is a trailblazer herself. The producer, who became a mother in February 2020, has donated 55 litres (and counting!) of breast milk to help newborns in need, ever since she began breastfeeding her baby boy, Veer.
“There is no denying that no advice can prepare you for what’s coming when your baby is born. In my case, the toughest battle was conquering breastfeeding as I wasn’t prepared for the pain associated with it,” she says over a phone call.
Hiranandani began lactating five days after Veer was born, and, in the coming months, decided to pump milk to store for a rainy day. However, as time went by, she realised that she could not only feed her baby as per his needs, but also had pumped more than enough. “Breastmilk, when stored in the freezer, can last up to four months, so I knew that I had to make use of the amount I had managed to collect. Consulting family and friends resulted in preposterous solutions. Some asked me to bathe my child in it, some asked me to massage him, and a few even suggested I bathe in it. To me, this was a colossal waste of a resource. That’s when I decided to look at more options,” the producer informs.
After thorough research online, Hiranandani found a number of articles on how new mothers found it difficult to lactate, and thus feed their babies. This is where she knew her next step. “I tried to look up hospitals in Mumbai, and if they had milk banks. However, I only found information on such hospitals in the US. Fortunately, it was my gyanaecologist at Women’s Hospital in Khar, Mumbai, who put me in touch with the doctors at the NICU at Surya Hospitals at Santacruz, Mumbai. All NICUs are open to the option of receiving breast milk for undernourished babies.”
Starting out, they asked Hiranandani to get a few blood tests in place to understand if she is fit for donating breast milk; once she cleared those, she was good to go. As the lockdown had been implemented when the producer decided to tread this path, the team at Surya Hospitals would send a staff member to pick up milk bags as and when Hiranandani had a sufficient amount ready. “I would store the milk in milk bags ready to go. On the days the hospital couldn’t send a member across, my husband, Tushar, would go to drop the packets off,” she says, adding how supportive her husband was through the process.
The 41-year-old emphasises that while blood banks are common, and get the attention they deserve, citizens are yet to understand the seriousness surrounding breast milk donation. “To think of it, all through my pregnancy, I wasn’t once made aware of this option. It’s not a concept, yet. How delightful it would be if new mothers are given pamphlets of breast milk donation centres in addition to the many on diapers and pacifiers,” she states. The producer also requests new mothers to consider this as part of motherhood as it can help save lives. “In the past couple of months, my motivation had dropped and I informed the doctors that since I will get back to work, I may or may not be able to keep up with the process. That’s when he invited me to the hospital to look at the babies I have helped. I went along with my family, and that sight of underweight babies and a few on ventilation tubes will never leave me. On that day, my motivation doubled,” says Hiranandani.
As is the case with all things novel, this concept too will find its rightful place in the years to come. Until then, various myths and old wives’ tales which have no scientific basis are bound to crop up. “Several older family members told me that if I begin pumping, the quality and quantity of the breast milk will drop, but it didn’t. In fact, I was able to donate it. It was also said that this is bad omen, and the process was termed “dirty”. Answer me this, can something that gives you life for the first year (sometimes two years), be dirty?” she asks, signing off.