Every mother has the right to nurture and take care of her baby. It’s not just a mere wish that ends with her nine months of pregnancy but a humane service she’s dedicated to. Breastfeeding is one such responsibility but the irony is, a mother doesn’t even have the complete right to fulfill this responsibility. The hollow norms of the society have made breastfeeding in public no less than a trauma for the doting mother. But is that correct?
From the very first day of birth till the toddler stage, a mother has to breastfeed her baby. Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeed for at least first six months of a newborn. During this crucial period, both the baby and the mother need proper physical and mental well-being. Breastfeeding is once such process that helps. Also, the baby receives an important substance from the breast milk, called colostrum. Colostrum is necessary for growth and immunity of the newborn at a later stage in life.
Unfortunately, a mother has to vibe with the stringent and casuistic norms of the society even to perform a normal function like breastfeeding. She can breastfeed as long as she’s confined to her home. But at public places or gatherings, she has to compromise this duty as many people tag breastfeeding as “obscene” or “unfavorable”. Infact, our society is so much ingrained with patriarchal views, that even the women themselves feel ashamed to breastfeed in public. They try to find a secured area to breastfeed their child public, in case the need arises.
Moreover, a recent rise in violence against women also makes them feel unsafe to breastfeed in public. In a society where people raise eyebrows at women wearing revealing outfits and political groups causing furor against freedom of expression, breastfeeding seems like a far cry!
In many areas of Africa, breastfeeding in public is the norm.The mothers commonly carry babies on their back in a length of cloth and feed them whenever needed. The nursing mother may shield the view of the baby nursing. In India, breastfeeding in public is prevalent among some sections of the society while almost prohibited in others. In China too, breastfeeding in public was unobjectionable till 2010, but due to the recent hype in social media it has been termed as “offensive” and “inappropriate”.
A new report by WHO, UNICEF, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) reveals the status of national laws to protect and promote breastfeeding. Of the 194 countries in the report, 135 have taken some form of legal measure related to the Breastfeeding and subsequent resolutions. This is up from 103 countries in 2011, when the last WHO analysis was done.
WHO and UNICEF recommend that mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies for their first 6 months. Afterwards, they should continue breastfeeding as well as giving other safe and nutritionally adequate foods until 2 years of age or beyond.
Even with the growing awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding, you may find it difficult to do so in public. Yet it is important to believe in yourself and your choice. Try to wear your confidence and don’t lose heart over objections and derogatory remarks of few troublemakers. Remember, nobody knows better than you what’s best for your baby. Your drive towards breastfeeding means being a role model for the entire society. Be you and follow these tips!
Tips for Breastfeeding in Public
- Wear clothes that allow easy access to your breasts, such as tops that pull up from the waist or button down.
- Use a special breastfeeding blanket around your shoulders. Some babies do not like this, though, so you’ll have to see what works for your baby.
- Breastfeed your baby in a sling. Slings or other soft infant carriers are especially helpful for traveling. They make it easier to comfort your baby comforted and keep him close to you.
- Slip into a women’s lounge or dressing room to breastfeed.
- Practice at home so that you can ensure you are only being as revealing as you feel comfortable with.