This public toilet is located in a mall. It sees a reasonably high footfall throughout the day.
While stench is one thing, it isn’t the most hygienic of places.
Would you consider eating a meal/snack or even have a cup of coffee in one of these cubicles?
Are you disgusted by my question?
You ought to be.
A breastfeeding mother, who made the mistake of visiting South City Mall in Kolkata, was asked to take her seven-month-old infant to the toilet to be fed.
In a social media post, among many other things, the mall said the following:
“It’s not like your baby needs to be breastfed at any moment, so you need arrangements to be made for you at any public area to breastfeed your child anywhere you wish to? We cannot compromise the privacy of other people in public places can we?”
As a mother, I have a few questions I wish to ask the mall authorities:
1. You say the baby does not need to be breastfed at any moment – please note that breastfeeding for an infant does not always satiate hunger. It could just be that the infant is thirsty, or irritated at being in a place where there is too much noise or stimuli.
An infant uses breastfeeding as a means to calm itself and feel secure.
Are you suggesting, by your insensitive post, that as a mother, I turn a blind eye to this basic need of my child?
2. You go on to say that one cannot make arrangements for breastfeeding mothers to feed in public.
To this I ask you – there is one entire floor in most malls dedicated to food courts, pubs, and restaurants.
You spend a lot of money on maintaining and promoting those. If you are suggesting that breastfeeding mothers are not welcome into your mall, then I understand this statement, however, if you wish to attract ‘families’ then you better get your act together and provide a space that is conducive for breastfeeding mothers or turn away if you see one sitting on a bench, feeding her infant.
3. The most outrageous point you make is about the privacy of other people in public spaces. If you were genuinely concerned about ‘privacy’, then you ought to have provided a safe place for the breastfeeding mother. I am unable to fathom why you think that breastfeeding sitting on a bench in your mall would in any way infringe on the privacy of any other guest.
It is incredible that in this day and age, despite all the ‘progress’ that the human civilisation has made, we allow such elements to dehumanise one of our basic instincts – that of nursing the offspring.
It is as basic a requirement for life – when we make so many arrangements to aid people to willingly kill themselves and others by providing smoking zones by the dozen, it is appalling that breastfeeding gets this treatment.
As mothers, we carry enough and more guilt for pretty much everything that we do in raising our children. It begins the day the child is born and never ends. Rather than providing her with all the support and nurturing she needs, places and people like these make it tougher for a new mother.
In writing this piece, my only hope is that people act responsibly and exercise some empathy while speaking to others, especially mothers. Remember that you are a product of one yourself!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)