Monday, June 15, 2015

Breastfeeding in public? Is it against public morality to feed your hungry child?

Breastfeeding is not just feeding your hungry child, it is the most beautiful way of connecting with our child. More than having food it is the emotional reassurance a child seeking from his/her mother by way of breastfeeding. By nurturing your child, you are telling them, I am here for you -A HEARTBEAT AWAY. Irrespective of the fact that( all around the globe) health professionals are trying to promote breastfeeding -as it is so important for Infant health- under today’s settings, is it possible for us (mothers) to feed our hungry offspring  in public without the fear of camera phones (and later appear in some wearied whatsapp share)? OR at least a few people around you, whispering to each other ‘ how dare she is?’( looking at you and your child as some ugly creature falling out of the sky).
 I breastfeed my 15 month old son.  He got severe food allergies and he can’t have any other milk other than breast milk. In addition to this when his eczema breaks out the only thing which can console my poor soul is the warmth of my heart. As the outbreaks are uncertain, it may come when we are out in for shopping or in his playground. Then my adorable comes to me crying, demanding my attention in the best way I can provide. The solution is to breastfeed him. Keep him close to myself (If it is possible I go to the car to feed him or find a secure place like ladies wash-room).
Like any other mother I always try to keep it minimal and modest. Though, there will be a situation where you have your weeping boy  scratching himself till bleed out of desperation, trying to undress you for his food and then the only option left out is, rather than creating a scene, is to give him his food ASAP. Then again on many occasions while doing so, my friends warned me about cameras & staring eyes. By way of giving my child his feed I am not expressing myself in public. As I use extra layers  I make sure that I am fully covered. Even then I have seen people raising their eyebrows, men with that’ look’ in their eyes which makes you feel naked and equally a culprit of some awkward crime. You feel like shouting ‘you also grew with this, so please understand and go away’. This sort of surroundings make me nervous. If a mother is nervous it passes to the child and they became stressed out. So it will take longer to settle them. So it took longer for my son to settle in and it is the same case with many fellow nursing mothers I talk to.
Legal Right:
In The United Kingdom it is a mothers legal right[i] to nurse her child, unless you are in a one sex[ii] protected place and if someone's[iii] actions is disturbing her right to nurse then that amounts to sex discrimination. The protection covers you as long as you and your child decides to continue nursing. You can find similar provisions in many legal systems,  for example Affordable Care ACT 2010 and many state breastfeeding laws in The United States, Federal Law and Sex discrimination Act in Australia are trying to uphold a mothers nursing right.

Coming back to India, Unfortunately we don't have any legal right, what we have is moral police all around. So it is time to raise our voice against those eyes leading to a hungry child's lips.  Positives are in Kerala, where I belong to there is special places in Hospitals and public parks for mothers ( I hope it is in all hospitals and public parks).

[i] In United Kingdom The Equality Act 2010 has made it illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place, such as a cafe, shop or public transport. 
[ii] Place exclusive for single sex man
[iii] Public bodies and service providers are included.

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