August 2, 2016
A new mother invited a waiter at a restaurant to have an ice cream inside the wash room, when he objected to her breastfeeding in the lobby and advised her to get into the lavatory.
Relating the incident as an example for the right to breastfeed in public, lactation counsellor Swati Aravindh said that the mother’s stance was just this: “My baby’s food is in my breast and I will feed when there is a need and in the place I have to.”
Breastfeeding is a woman’s right and more importantly, exercising it just about anywhere. Empowering women to breastfeed in public is one thing and educating the society to bring about an attitudinal change is quite another in the battle to remove the stigma associated with it.
Strictly mothers need no one’s approval to breastfeed when a crying need arises, but how many are ready to brush off the ‘stares’ or otherwise looks of disapproval. It is this inhibition that lactation experts and breastfeeding support groups are working to do away with.
Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) is one such group that is generating awareness among new and nursing mothers about how perfectly normal it is to breastfeed babies in public, and to make things easier it is also promoting a two-shirt technique that will prevent skin exposure.
The two-shirt method can be practiced with a camisole or a tank top worn under the regular top or even a front-open top, and popular perceptions say that sari is the most simple and suitable attire for breastfeeding in public.
An ergonomic baby carrier can also go a long way in building the confidence of a nursing mother.
Aravindh, who belongs to BSIM, a Facebook based support group for breastfeeding mothers, their spouses and family members, said a woman has to be proactive in exercising the right to breastfeed when there is a need irrespective of place and time
“Lots of people fall into the ‘formula trap’ when the breast doesn’t seem to produce enough milk. As a counsellor, I help the parents become better informed about breastfeeding.”
Working mothers have to get hold of a good quality electric pump to extract and store the milk properly to continue feeding the baby even after they rejoin work, she said.
The more women take breastfeeding in their stride, the more the society will get accustomed to it, even if not accept it, Aravindh said.
“Women generally don’t feel comfortable nursing outdoors, and at vaccination centres, new mothers especially, have to draw up grandiose schedules to traverse homes and hospitals so that they are not forced to give the feeds a miss,” said Anjana Dhanavanthan of BSIM.
Dhanavanthan also said the mothers will also be educated on the health benefits of breastfeeding and the weaning period in addition to the solution of pumping, extracting and storing milk for working mothers.
It’s universally known that breastmilk is an immunity builder and a storehouse of nutrients. According to WHO, six months of exclusive breastfeeding, one year of definite, and one year of extended feeding, is the norm.
Breastfeeding is a liberating experience, and women have to follow some simple methods and then all what they have to do is feel calm and positive to do what they want to do as mothers, said Dhanavanthan.
BSIM is 20,000- member strong community that has enlisted medical professionals too, to get educated about breastfeeding and to make the nursing period stress-free and enjoyable.
As part of the World Breastfeeding Week 2016 between August 1st and 7th, BSIM has kicked off awareness drives aimed at gathering as many mothers as possible to dispel the misconceptions associated with breastfeeding.