This is for your bigger and smaller kids, to help them understand the normality of breastfeeding. But also for you, to think and enjoy. We hope you like it!
Who's got milk for baby monkey?
-- A fable
--To my Mamma.
She had been waiting for more than past four full moons.
Now that Poornima was again shining and gifting energy to the plants and creatures of the jungle, Rya felt a dull pain deep in her belly and she knew that the time had come. Swinging from the high routes and branches of the banjan tree her clan had chosen as a home, she danced with the waves of pain till it became so strong that she felt like pushing. Down she was, leaning on the trunk of the tree, mother earth under her feet and her baby's head reaching the palm of her hand... And more of it and more... She'd call the baby Chanda, like the shining moon that night.... But where was it? Where had the benign eyes of Poornima gone hiding? It seemed like time had stopped. The voices of the jungle had gone silent, the leaves still, while a cold shiver crossed her body, now washed by a heavy rain... Just a wave more... Push Rya! A loud rumble in the sky followed the mighty light which had struck the banjan tree. It was Aag. Wild, burning and bright.
Just the time to see her clan running around in fear and then darkness.
What saved Rya from the flames that had chased away all her monkey friends only God knows. But there she was, head spinning but awake on a dusty morning, lying on the clays of what was once a tall banjan with hundrends of routes. There she was, alone and forgotten, her womb as empty as her heart - and her arms, too.
There she laid, for minutes or hours, till her eyes begun to see and went searching past the pain, the loss and the emptiness and reached the tiny little thing bundled up against a rock not too far from her. She did not recognise him from his smell, nor from his eyes. Her own emptyness met his emptyness. Like in mirror, she recognised herself and there she knew that Chanda - her Chanda - was alive.
She knew she had to care for him and protect him, yet she did not know how.
Chanda could not eat bananas, nor the juicy mangoes that Rya loved so much.
He couldn't eat nuts and he was definitely not interested in the fishes in the river.
"What shall I feed my baby monkey?", Rya asked mama dolphin, who was swimming nearby.
"Surely I don't know what mama monkeys do, but here's how we go", said the dolphin, whose little one was swimming by her side, his mouth tightly sealed at her breast, just in the middle of her belly. "My milk will make him into a good swimmer", she said "And then he will catch his own fish".
Rya did not quite remember having seen swimming monkeys. Probably mama dolphin's milk was not what her baby needed.
Chanda on her back, she thoughtfully walked away from the river, looking in all corners for a better food.
Chanda was not interested in the peacocks' berries and creepy crawls and he refused the turtle's worms with great disgust.
'Roaaarrhh!!!" came out loud as Rya went looking into a leafy bush: mama tiger was guarding her newborn cubs! 'She is so strong and fierce', thought Rya... I'd want for Chanda the same food she is feeding her cubs...".
"Excuse me! May I...?" she asked mama tiger, trembling in fear... "May I have some... To feed my baby monkey?".
"Your ...?! I have no more space... !" Roared mama tiger, sprawled under her four cubs who were suckling avidly from her four breasts". In fact, these guys' suckling makes me quite hungry...".
Rya run and run as fast as she could, she ran past the bushes, she ran past the river, upto the grass fields.
And there was mama deer, peacefully feeding herself, her fawn enjoying a sip of her milk after taking a byte of green grass.
But Chanda did not like grass.
"Little fawns love their grass, but they love their mama's milk, too! It makes their fur shining and their horns long and strong!
But Chanda does not need horns...
"You could try with the buffaloes" suggests mama deer, "Humans take their milk, sometimes... They might have some to spare for your baby".
There were the buffaloes, not too far at all.
But just while Rya asked: "Could you please let my baby monkey drink a bit of your milk?", there came a leopard, fast like the wind, and fast run the buffaloes and fast run their calves.
Surely baby buffaloes were big ... And they could run... But they were not as skilled as a monkey: they could not even climb a tree, or peel a banana. They could not hold tight on their mother's back - and anyway, they would have been so heavy to carry like that! Rya liked carrying Chanda on her back... And she wanted him to learn picking juicy mangoes, one day, and swing from banjan trees.
There seemed to be no right milk for baby monkey!
Foxie was smart, but a little too clever. Squirrel could climb, but so small and tiny! Rhyno? Ooh nooo! Elephant? Well... Curling his trunk above mama's full teat, surely he was cute but a little too big.From grassfields to waters, forests to desert lands, up and down mama monkey searched, upto a mountain cave.
"What do I feed my baby monkey?" she shouted in tears and the echo responded: "Monkey, monkey, monkey...". Clouds of black bats flying away disappointed by the noise, mama bat hugging her baby who promptly mastered an upside down improvised milk snack.
"Chanda would definitely not hang like that...." .
And here came old wise mama wolf from the back of the cave, ten cubs rolling over each other and grabbing her boobs: "Monkey needs monkey! The echo has spoken!".
Rya was confused. She didn't know what to do. She sat on the ground and hugged Chanda in despair. Her fur was so soft. Her body smelled good. It smelled of mom. Chanda smelled and smelled and Rya licked his tiny head. He reached for her breasts... They were heavy indeed. He suckled and suckled and both fell asleep. Baby's tummy was full and mama felt good. One day he'd eat bananas and juicy mangoes and mama and baby would swing together from tall banjan trees.
Fable by Camilla Conti
Drawings by Camilla Conti and Amoli Kaur
Breastmilk is the biological norm of infant feeding for all mammals.
Breastmilk is species specific, it keeps your baby healthy and helps her grow into what she is meant to be.
Delivery practices impact breastfeeding.
Most breastfeeding problems can be solved with lots of skin to skin touch and a bit of competent help.