'Nurturing Babies Is Not Just A Mother’s Job'
Arun, a farm hand, recounts how Angawadi workers and a father’s love helped his underweight twins grow into healthy young children
“Akansha is 6 months old and her weight is just perfect.”
The love in Arun’s voice is difficult to hide. 'We live in a very tiny village of Zari Taluka. Our village Ambesari is in a tribal-dominated area. The village is primarily inhabited by tribal groups of Gonds and Kolam. My wife and I both work as farm labourers. I studied only until the 12th grade, and my wife ended her studies just before the 10th grade. Nothing is more valuable to us than our children's health”, he says.
‘On 7 November 2013, we were over the moon when my wife gave birth to the little sunshine and rainbow of our life, my twin new-borns-Aditya, and Akansha. But there was also a pretty stressful scenario, since Aditya's birth weight was a mere 2.5 Kg. And Akansha's birth weight was even less at 1.5 Kg. She's been pretty weak. We were afraid. She had to be closely monitored in the hospital for 7 days after she was born. Yet somehow we knew we would win over the situation. Asha and Anganwadi Tai gave us the details about nutrition, breastfeeding, and vaccine. After taking their medication, the babies were exclusively breastfed for 6 months. After giving birth to the twins, my wife stayed at her mother's house for six months, but as the village is located nearby, I used to visit them every day. I wanted to see if my babies, especially Akansha, are healthy. I'd always like to interact with my babies, enjoy peek-a-boo games. Aditya's weight improved with age. Six months later, we introduced complementary foods in their diet. We also tried a variety of new foods and were responsive to hunger cues.”
‘During her pregnancy, I took all the responsibility of my wife, such as nutrition, vaccination, prenatal medication, weight gain, BP, urine tests, hospital delivery, etc. The Anganwadi Tai guided us properly,” says Arun.
‘The Anganwadi Tai supported us with a lot of new information about childcare, mostly by home visits. Now that we've all heard about the positive shift in the child's development that occurs while we play and engage with the child, we implement it in our daily lives. We give proper diet to our babies, feeding them eggs 3 to 6 times a week. We try to cook locally available fruits and vegetables such as pulses, fenugreek, spinach, pickled rice. And avoid outside food items such as chips and biscuits.”
‘This is the real-time to make our kids smart. I enjoy playing in the house with a spoon, bowl, and other household toys, and bathe them. I take both of them outside and introduce them to the villagers. I also tell them about various shapes and colours through the animals, birds, leaves, flowers, vegetables, fruits, we play different games like running, catching, pampering, domesticated chickens and goats. In the courtyard, Aditya playfully checks Akansha’s weight.
“Akansha’s weight has increased and now has come green in the weight category. She has also started speaking a few words properly. If she is thirsty, she says mum-mum. I feel the pride of fatherhood when I take responsibility for shaping my children’s mental, physical and emotional well-being. Besides, nurturing babies is not just a mother’s job, but also of a father and the entire community,” concludes Arun with a broad smile on his face.
- Translated by: Alokita Jha
- Courtesy Unicef India