Breastfeeding is natural, and more importantly, it provides vital nutrition and nourishment for a newborn. But what many people forget is that it is also extremely difficult and that breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get.
From a lack of education and support to absence of well-equipped nursing rooms and constant judgement from everyone (including their cats) – breastfeeding moms face quite a few hurdles!
Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
For Nivedita Emmanuel (name changed) who works at Cochin Info Park, having a son who is a year and eight months old, guilt is still a constant companion because she could breastfeed her baby only for a few months. “On the third day after birth, my baby was given formula. I had a difficult time getting the baby to feed directly and I didn’t know any better. I wish there was someone who could have explained to me how important it was to give the baby breast milk. Even the caregivers and health professionals at the hospital were not able to give me the right advice. It was something that I could easily fix, but I wasn’t given the right knowledge or support at the time.”
Feeding in public is frowned upon! Why then is there no provision to feed the baby in a hygienic, private location in public spaces? Considering the influence that new mothers have, one would think that malls and businesses would ensure that there are well equipped changing and nursing rooms.
Megha Badoutiya, mom to a six-year-old and a one-year-old, has lived in Visakhapatnam and Cochin. She says that not much has changed over the last five years.
“Most of the public places are not nursing mother-friendly, and it can become quite a hassle for moms. My friends and I still prefer to go feed in the car, because it is private and more comfortable than the options available to us. While some malls have a feeding room, it is more often than not, a part of the bathroom and I know my child doesn’t enjoy being fed with a cover on. I have even fed in a tiny changing room. I just find it easier to keep the car keys handy.”
Most often than not, even hospitals do not have a clean and private place to breastfeed. Pune based mom Pallavi Patel agrees. “While some malls have a room, I find it appalling that no such space exists in big restaurants and eateries. Even government offices such as passport offices or banks – both places where there are possibilities of a long wait – have no place for a breastfeeding mother.”
For Mumbai-resident Sonali Darshan, the concern is the lack of facilities at workplaces, and how moms returning to the workforce will most likely have to give up breastfeeding.
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Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr
“I feel that the work culture in many Mumbai offices is not supportive of the working mom; offices are not very spacious and it’s difficult to arrange a room for mothers to pump milk. And there is no way they can go home in intervals to see their baby, it’s impossible in the traffic.”
Bengaluru-resident and mommy Pooja Abraham (name changed) feels that although there have been improvements, particularly in the work sphere, it is not enough. “There are offices now which provide private spaces for nursing mothers to pump; our office opened one last year. However, many women are not very comfortable explaining their pumping absences to their male managers.”
“Another area that a nursing mom faces pressure is the cut-off age. I fed my child beyond one year, and received flak for it. I think moms should not be judged for how long they feed their child for.”
It is upsetting that there is a need to “normalize” breastfeeding. Every woman deserves the right to feed her baby as and when she pleases. Without a cover or with, in the mall or restaurant, without being asked to go to the restroom to feed, without being told that bubba is too old, without being intimidated and scared into replacing breast milk with formula.
Possibly change is coming. The Bengaluru airport is one such example.
Both within the arrivals, and departure terminals, there is a clean and private baby room, equipped with a changing area, and cots, for more than one baby, and even dispensers for baby soap and cream. Hopefully we’ll see these rooms at every public space!
You can also contribute to help create 2000 breastfeeding counsellors in India. The project run by Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India will provide a four day course to train counsellors who can help mothers to make appropriate infant feeding choices and avoid harmful practices as well as solve their breastfeeding problems.
Help Create 2000 Breastfeeding Counselors
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But till then, even you can make a difference. Read about breastfeeding and spread awareness. The only way to change things is through education and awareness. Tell your friends and family, male or female, about how incredibly amazing breast milk is and how it can promote the well-being of not just the child but the mother too. Dispel the myths and misinformation surrounding breastfeeding. Speak out and educate; and more importantly, stop judging. Help build a generation which not only understands why breastfeeding is important, but also values it and encourages it. You know what they say – it takes a village to raise a child.