Breastfeeding: Nature’s Health Plan Gone Indecent?

BeefOverFeedIt is not an irregularity when mothers breastfeed their babies, however, it is treated and ogled at when not done in the privacy of their chambers. After all, babies should be taught not to get hungry when stopping out of the house, right? Or the mothers should make sure to refine themselves in the house for as long as the period for breastfeeding goes, shouldn’t she? Because, if done in public, instead of being considerate we might just ogle at breasts, or just make the mother supremely uncomfortable.

Earlier, breastfeeding in public was nothing but a taboo, but now it is shaping itself to be a norm and a stereotype.

The constant subjugation and adherence towards the act, have forced the act of breastfeeding to go extinct, and there is no one who should take the blame and responsibility for it, but us. As weird as it may sound, but there is something unnatural in the occurrence of it. Due to this, many are shying away from it, and do not indulge in the process of it. Hence, we are actually losing the amount of women who are supportive of the cause and unabashed and uninhibited towards it.

The reason women are shunned to their homes is due to lack of normalization towards breastfeeding. Rather than marveling over the true miracle of a woman’s body, people just gape at her and are literally staring her down, driving the act towards extinction. Also, women’s breasts are often defined as sex objects, so, there is an utmost level of sexualization catering towards it, hence, tabooed breasts. Moreover, since sex is still shamed, breastfeeding also travel on the same shameful and indecent path.

Recently, Breastfeeding Week was celebrated between 1-7 August, wherein the concerned authorities and activists emphasized the importance of breastfeeding and the urgent need to normalize it, than creating an issue out of it. The District Level Health Survey (DLHS) indicates that in the national capital, only 12 percent of women exclusively breastfed their children for the first six months. This is the second-lowest figure in the country after Haryana, where it was just 9.4 percent. It is important for baby’s health to be breastfed for the initial six months, as it extends well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protects the baby from illness.

Experts said that improper infant feeding practices can lead to malnutrition among children, while many infant mortalities happen due to diarrhea and pneumonia. They also pointed out that it is not just social taboos that play a role, but the aggressive marketing by multinational companies to promote baby foods as supplementary diet also attracts young mothers.

Breast milk is important, and anything that inhibits such an act, which is deemed indecent, shouldn’t be adhered to.

It is important for cities to be entailed with nursing rooms in public facilities, thus, encouraging the moms to indulge in the act, an act which wouldn’t limit their travel for the initial few months. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is required that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.

It is time we looked at creating safe and hygienic spots in public for lactating mothers and strive to remove any taboo or stigma attached to this life sustaining act. Both the Government and private entities should look at creating safe zones in parks, bus stops, malls or other public places that can be used by lactating mothers, unabashedly and without any hassles created due to stigmatized norms.

Feeding in public should be a regular way of life and the mother should feel no social stigma attached to this divine gesture.

Let us finally move on and evolve. It is, indeed long overdue, isn’t it?

Yugansha Malhotra

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The Viewspaper