When Coimbatore’s Dr M Aishwarya gave birth to her second child, she slipped into postpartum depression.

Having recently separated from her husband, she was now a single parent to a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and her newborn son.

While coping with the financial, emotional, and social responsibilities of raising her children, she reached out to a mothers’ group that eventually helped her overcome her anxieties.

This incident motivated her to contribute to society by raising awareness about mental health for new mothers, breastfeeding, and milk donation.

Since 2016, Aishwarya is part of the Coimbatore Parenting Network (CPN) — an organisation that spreads awareness on correct breastfeeding techniques, postpartum depression, and breast milk banks.

Talking about the importance of breastfeeding, she says, breast milk can reduce infant mortality rate by 22% if given within an hour of birth. The milk is rich in antibodies that help develop the infant’s immunity.

But “breastfeeding is often shamed in our conservative society. A lack of designated nursing rooms available in public invites stares and objectification,” she says.

“I often see adults shaming women for being ‘indecent’ if they breastfeed in public. These accusations are precisely why women are shy to come forward to donate milk.”

To bridge the knowledge gap, Aishwarya is spearheading a breastmilk donation drive called ‘Uyirthuli’. In the past 4-5 years, she has encouraged over 300 mothers to donate excess milk and help infants without mothers.

“A mother can donate anywhere between 100 to 300 ml per day, and that amount of milk can feed up to 10 babies. The milk is sanitised and replenished before giving it to the child,” she says.

The organisation donates to the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital and other banks in the city.