Neha Dhupia’s initiative Freedom to Feed, ‘a parenting initiative’ that aims to “normalise” the act of breast-feeding in public, has garnered huge support ever since the actress launched it, with mothers pouring their hearts out on the platform’s Instagram page. All heartfelt. Chicnutrix, an all-women’s wellness, beauty, and nutrition brand, has now stepped forward to support Neha too. We chat with Neha on Freedom to Feed and the joys of motherhood.
Is there a story about how Freedom to Feed came into being? When did you start it?
For me, Freedom to Feed was an initiative that started when I was eight months into my breast-feeding journey, that is eight months after giving birth to Mehr. I was on a plane and I wanted to express some milk and I just realised should I be going to the washroom and doing this? I did that, but when I came out, I thought this was wrong at all levels. We need to normalise this, we need to have more conversations, and get more young parents and new mums involved. And here we are, we started off as a post that I put up on an Instagram page that we created and got endless support from parents everywhere. Now we are a community of almost 36,000 parents, which feels great.
Why do you think there is still a taboo behind a very regular thing like breast-feeding?
I feel like there isn’t a taboo around breast-feeding, I’m just going to clarify that. I think it’s not normalised. Somewhere, in the rural areas, women are far more empowered, because if they have to feed their child, they just have to feed their child. Here also they do it and continue to feed their children but I don’t understand the need to stop and stare as far as everybody else is concerned. I don’t understand why it needs to be looked upon as “Oh my god, what’s going on in public”. It just really needs to be normalised, supported, and not to be stared at or sexualised. Most importantly, you need to make it far more convenient for a new mum. Trust me, if anyone needs it, it’s the new mum who needs all your support, space, and everything else that comes with it. I know because I have been one twice over and the struggle is real.
What can bring about a change in the mindset?
We can bring about a change in the mindset by normalising it. We can bring about a change in the mindset by not sexualising it and by talking about it more. I feel like to use social media to your advantage, to have the right voice, to give it the right direction, and most importantly, it really is the most natural, beautiful, and normal thing to happen to a new mum and a new baby.
Talking of motherhood in general, what have been your learnings like?
I feel that it’s a really wide answer. My biggest learning has definitely been to always be curious and inquisitive. There’s something I learn from my children every day. Another thing I have learned is honesty. I just adore the fact that there could be a little moment where, for example, I ask my daughter something as simple as if she has brushed her teeth and she says yes. Then I ask her are you lying and she says yes. I feel like there is so much innocence and just speaking the truth is so pure. And last but not the least, they grow up really fast, so hold on to them real tight.
How are you bringing her up?
For me, the biggest thing about bringing up my daughter is to have a great value system because I know that’s what I can provide her with. I always feel that it is very important to teach them young and early to have a voice of their own. Literally, the first word I taught my daughter was the word ‘bas’, as a polite way of saying no. If she thinks that something is out of line or something is going overboard, or even if her stomach is full, she should know how to say ‘bas’. If she doesn’t want to have any more playtime or if she feels like she is being compelled or forced into doing something, she should know how to say ‘bas’. I feel that if you start early and tell them that they have the right to say no whenever they feel that they are being made to do something against their wishes, that voice stays for an entire lifetime and that’s what I want to teach my daughter.
Are you a strict parent?
I promise you, I’m far from a strict parent. I mean a lot of people may think so because they have probably seen me on Roadies, but jokes aside, I am not strict at all. You have to let them grow. Don’t try and mould them. Let them take whatever shape they want and there’s a beauty to each shape and every child.
What is we-time like with her?
We-time is great! It could be anything from book time, which I never miss unless I have a serious work commitment, to just going for a drive, to the bookstore or for a swim. Every time we have we-time, it’s very important to have the least number of distractions and to have a lot of conversations. She is a chatty little girl; we share things with each other. Sometimes I seek knowledge in the things she says, and sometimes my words to her come from a place of experience. I see a lot of myself in her.
If there is one thing you could wish for your daughter, what would it be?
I just want my daughter to be healthy, happy, and to be whatever she wants to be as long as she’s not hurting anyone else or herself. I just want her to grow in the most free and independent manner. Most importantly, I want her to have a voice of her own, and no one else’s.