By Dr. Jyoti Ramakrishna
Barakat Bundle is primarily designed with pregnant mothers in South Asia in mind. But being based in Boston, we are quite a distance away from this target population! So in order to gain as much as information as we could in the time leading up to our Product Development Pilot in India, we set out to interview some Indian grandmothers who were visiting their families in the Boston area over summer vacation to learn about their birthing experiences and knowledge. It turns out that research and real life can be quite different. Sure, we had a survey all ready to go – that was the easy part. Finding grandmothers and actually administering the survey was a little challenging. We put out feelers, contacted some families, and finally were able to set up interviews and off we went. Karima and I drove out to several Boston suburbs to sit down with lovely Indian grandmothers and their families (and of course with cups of chai and snacks too!) and learn from their experiences!
One of the first things we learned was that crisp and organized surveys don’t quite work! Often questions were answered with anecdotes and digressions that were actually quite helpful but sometimes made filling out our survey challenging. We improvised our questions accordingly in order to get the desired information and took away some invaluable insights that we felt were worth sharing. Here are our top 5 takeaways:
1. A Superstitious Culture
Families were superstitious about buying things for the baby before baby arrived although there were some things, like making reusable cloth diapers, that were deemed acceptable. After the baby was born, simple rituals and precautions were taken to keep away the evil eye – such as a black mark on the baby’s cheek or forehead.
2. Encouraged Co-Sleeping
Mother and baby often slept together for the first few months (with the baby on a rubber sheet to prevent soiling the bed) due to frequent nappy changes and breastfeeds through the night. Also, mother and baby often did not leave the house for approximately 40 days after birth for various reasons including superstition and to reduce risk of infection.
3. DIY Mothers
Mothers made makeshift cradles for their babies by tying two ends of a sari to high posts in the house. This made sense since they had to factor in space constraints and portability when considering where to place their babies.
4. All Natural Solutions
Several natural remedies such as ginger, gripe water, and a root called vasambu (Acorus_calamus) were commonly used as catchall treatments.
5. Community Effort
Raising a child involved more than just the parents. Family members, friends and neighbors all pitched in with advice on everything. The mother had varying amounts of limited control depending on the circumstances.
Overall, these insights were a great start to learning about our target market. We hope to build on them with the current experiences of South Asian mothers and pregnant women during our Product Development pilot in India this September!