Kandy

Welcome to the Carnival of Breastfeeding! Our theme this month is “Personal Stories” and my story of traveling to one of my favourite places, nursling and wearee in tow, is below. If you’ve arrived here for the first time, you might want to check out our series on breastfeeding hands free. If you’re a regular, make sure you check out the other carnival participants below.


He stirs beneath the mosquito net. He edges closer, still half asleep. I know it must be close to four since the monks are chanting in the grey pre-dawn and the valley is silent but for their hum. He breaks the stillness, demanding my sleepy attention. I roll closer and feed him. He drifts off to sleep and I am left listening to the Buddhist cannon chanted across the valley.

An hour and a half later, the Imam chants the call to prayer and his voice sounds across the town. The Buddhists have finished their praying before the Muslims have begun and my little one has felt the passage of time too. He edges closer, pressing himself into me. As the sun is dawning, I feed him again, listening to the Imam’s prayer, piercing and clear as the day brightens.

By the time the church bells begin to toll, I am out of patience with my nursling. His father has taken him away and I luxuriate in my loneliness beneath the mosquito net listening to the bells ring out from just down the hill.

After the Christians have finished, a new hymn begins. Staccato and impatient, a language all of its own, the car horns signal the beginning of a new phase in this valley’s daily round of devotions: commercial enterprise and the accompanying traffic chaos has begun.

This is Kandy, Sri Lanka. There is no other place like it.

These sounds are a morning ritual in Kandy, an ancient city tucked into a valley in the mountains of central Sri Lanka. Those frequent night-time and early morning feeds were our personal experience of that cultural ritual.

My son is Sri Lankan by descent, though Australian by birth, and in the New Year holiday of 2007-2008, we traveled back to the place of his father’s birth to introduce him to his extended family and his second home.

Travelling in a foreign country with a small child can be a challenge at best. Travelling in a poverty-stricken foreign country can add a new dimension to that challenge. We were lucky enough to take our son at a stage in his life when he was still worn and breastfeeding regularly. All too regularly at night, alas, which is one of the reasons I’m so very familiar with the sounds of Kandy in the early morning!

Breastfeeding helped us negotiate the intricacies of travel in several ways. Firstly, we never had to worry about clean drinking water for him. He drank water when it was safe, but if it wasn’t convenient to find it at any given point, there was a ready-made drink on hand. As a toddler, he ate solid food and was very familiar with the local cuisine, but there were inevitably some changes and differences. Breastfeeding allowed us to make up any nutritional gap. Breastfeeding also provided an important part of our routine that helped him cope with the changes that traveling entails.

Breastfeeding was a way for me to connect with the other mothers in the family. We were vastly different people from vastly different places, but our children were all fed in the same way. In a country where extended nursing is the norm and poverty is rife, it’s obvious that breastfeeding provides an important protection for infants and small children. There was a respect for the process that we shared on both sides of the cultural divide, but at the same time it was just a normal part of mothering.

The other major part of our traveling experience was babywearing. I remember tucking him up into a wrap one tropical night in Negombo and feeding him to sleep as our relatives chatted about us. The mosquitoes were ravenous that evening (and dengue fever was rife), but the wrap mercifully protected most of him from their attention, acted as a light blanket in the tropical weather and screened him from outside distractions as he drifted off to sleep in an unfamiliar place.

From his vantage point on our backs, our son was able to experience the full richness of Sri Lanka for himself. Whether it was getting Kozy with the elephants, attending temple for the first time with his father or walking the beaches at sunset, our son experienced all of it.

Like breastfeeding, babywearing was certainly useful from a practical standpoint. Negotiating multiple airports with a toddler who’s not just out of his time zone, but totally out of patience is much easier when you’re not juggling a pram. At our destination, however, babywearing was essential.

As a traveling rule of thumb, any street that’s just as likely to have elephants in the traffic stream as motorbikes is probably not a place where toddlers should roam freely and prams run easily. Another important piece of information for travellers: elephants do not follow road rules. Because when you’re driving an elephant down the main (one way) street of a major city against the traffic, it’s up to the rest of the city to get out of your way.

We are returning to Sri Lanka again this year with our son and our younger child. Another nursling, another wearee. More elephants to avoid and monkeys to fend off. Poverty to attempt to explain, thousands of years of history to observe. There are more memories to be made, more experiences to share. I’m quite certain I’ll be breastfeeding and babywearing on this trip, once again. I don’t know if I’ll be doing those things in tandem, but the unknown is one of the wonderful parts of traveling.

Other Carnival of Breastfeeding participants who are sharing their stories today:

About Steph

Steph is a Mum of three with a passion for babywearing and some excellent skills with knots.
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18 Responses to Kandy

  1. Pingback: Hannah's Weaning | Strocel.com

  2. Lara says:

    Beautiful Steph!

  3. Melodie says:

    What a beautifully written story. It sent shovers up my spine. Loved especially the first part. It was like opening passages of a novel. Lovely.

  4. What a lovely story! Thankyou for sharing. Makes me want to pack up and go travelling right now.

  5. Elisa says:

    Incredible! Love the idea of the rest of the city moving out of the way when an elephant is going down the street the wrong way.

    And I say, go for the tandem feeding/wearing if you like. With broken pavements and other hazards, it’s much easier than a pram.

  6. Pingback: How Breastfeeding Changed My Life : Mommy News Blog

  7. Steph says:

    Thanks everyone! My husband will be with us when we go, and he’s an accomplished toddler-wearer, so I shouldn’t have to tandem them- but you never know :)

    I’m getting all excited about going again. I hate all-night nurseathons, but when you’re in Kandy and listening to the passage of time like that- it’s something special. The whole country is a sacred space.

  8. Pingback: The “I Told You So” : Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Breastfeeding Information, News and Support

  9. Jenny says:

    lovely photos!! breastfeeding does make travelling so much easier

  10. slingdad says:

    What a beautiful post and amazing photos Steph! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pingback: Can Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices? | Breastfeeding Moms Unite

  12. Lori says:

    I saw your link in the email for the Carnival, and I’m glad I stopped by. You write very well. I also enjoyed the pictures. Thanks for sharing your story.

  13. Amber says:

    Breastfeeding really does make traveling so much easier. As does babywearing. The two just eliminate a lot of the concerns that you would otherwise face with small children. Good luck on your return trip!

    PS – This is off-topic, but I think we have the same fabric pattern on our mei tais (although different strap colours). I just thought that was sort of cool. You can see me wearing my son in mine here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/strocel/3535413226/ :)

  14. sarahr says:

    Steph, your beautiful writing brought so many memories of India flooding back – thanks! I agree that bfing and bwing make travel so much easier, particularly in developing countries.

  15. Steph says:

    I think we need to do a travel month one of these days (soon), Sarah- I think there’s more stories than ours to be told.

    Amber, yep, same one :) Love it!

  16. That was so evocative. I loved traveling along with you, and my toddler will love the photo of the elephants. :) I can’t believe how close you are to them — it looks like a dream to me, an anti-zoo.

    I agree that babywearing and breastfeeding are perfect for travel — even if you’re not avoiding wildlife!

  17. Steph says:

    Alas, Lauren, those elephants aren’t as wild as they appear. The photograph is taken at an elephant orphanage in Pinnewala. Twice a day, the elephants get taken down to the river for a swim. They love it. But the keepers/handlers spend alot of time keeping them close to tourists instead of letting them spread out in the only freedom they get during the day. (Part of this IS a public safety issue, of course!)

    Most of these elephants are unable to be returned to the wild (land mine accidents are one reason). The touristy public paying to see them funds programs to return other orphans to wild habitat.

  18. Pingback: Babywearing Year In Review | Baby Carriers Downunder

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