Breastfeeding in Public- An individual choice
Dharshana Kathiresan, INN/Chennai, @infodeaoffical
We always find instances, where breastfeeding mothers are being shoved off, frowned upon, and singled out from malls, parks, beaches, pools, flights, etc.
How difficult it is to not sexualize the natural and very fundamental necessity such as breastfeeding?
There are many ways to feed a baby and every mother has the freedom to choose it according to her comfortability. Some only breastfeed, some bottle-feed pumped milk, some use baby formula and there are some who do all the above. Ultimately it’s their decision to feed in public or not.
Babies need to feed on 8 to 10 times a day. The number of times is high, as they intake the food in small volumes. This ensures that both the infant and the nursing mother are healthy, protecting them from any illness.
It’s an unhealthy expectation to ask a female parent to stay at home (24×7) and nurture the baby. She has a life outside home, personal choices, and job, which needs to be addressed. It’s unfair to ask them to put their work in a halt and find private places for breastfeeding.
In a society where women are objectified it’s not a surprise to know that exposure of breasts while feeding is perceived as sexual by many.
A common reaction to public breastfeeding is that it makes ‘others’ awkward. This is an outcome of cultural beliefs that are discriminatory and it shows that the people see feeding as an inappropriate act.
Experts and breastfeeding advocacy groups state that people need to respect the choice of a mother and the natural, positive process of feeding infants. The others (the ones who dislike) can move away if they are unable to process this, instead of harassing the mother or expecting her to find another spot.
Another response from these ‘others’ is why the mothers do not cover themselves while feeding. It’s because some babies cannot feed while they have something (a piece of cloth) over their heads.
Some mothers also feel that they need to see the little one while feeding, in order to make sure that the baby is properly latched.
When it comes to why not bottle milk or pumped breast milk the answer is that most newborns do not prefer baby formula (infant milk) and they properly consume milk only if it is given through breasts. Several research studies have been conducted around this area.
Shaming the mothers for nourishing has gained a lot of attention and criticism over the past years. Many social groups have come forward to stand for these females and helped them to understand their rights.
These groups also provide details about the laws regarding breastfeeding, in that particular state or country.
Note: All views are that of the Author