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I really don’t know how to begin writing this article, should I tell you that I love my country and my city even more and then complain about some really grave issues that we face in the same country? Or should I begin by complaining as to how difficult it is to nurse my kid in this city? I am writing not only on behalf of myself but many mommies here who will be featured for the next 7 days. Today we begin with 2 stories of moms who have fought at every instance for breastfeeding their kid.

Day 1

Neeta shares her story as to how she had to struggle to breastfeed her son…

So the time I had Vihaan (my son) the maternity leave was 3 months and I could not extend it much (work responsibilities suck sometimes!) and I had to get back to work shortly after that.

“I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding as much as possible, however, considering mothers struggling with getting back to work and taking care of the little one at home, it’s easier said than done.”

Office spaces are not very encouraging in that aspect and had to fight (constructively!) with my HR to have space where mothers can come and express milk twice or thrice a day and it should be hygienic with a comfortable place and also a small refrigerator to store the expressed milk.

They allotted a shared space where once a week the company physician conducts his practice (sucks right?) but it was at least something, had a comfortable bed and couch etc. so all good. I had to store the milk in the refrigerator in the storeroom (it was clean) but it had access to many people frequently accessing the place. It was awkward at first but then I thought what the hell! I want to do it and I don’t care what they think about it.

Surprisingly, my confidence gave the store manager confidence to help me out and he used to fill my ice trays 🙂 l used to carry the milk back home in a bag filled with ice (didn’t buy any fancy storage equipment). This way I could feed my son for close to two years.

“But the point is they should make things a little more convenient for new moms who have to go through a lot, getting back to a lot of things and a little support and encouragement from the people around will help them get back on their feet.”

Neha Chopra from @foreverjugni and  @oofpicturesfelt the lack of support for breastfeeding her child and the feeding rooms being some kind of hiding rooms…

 

Breastfeeding for me is normal, natural and instinctual. In the initial days of my breastfeeding journey, I have been let down by the lack of nursing spaces, during my let down (pun intended)! Especially during mall visits or traveling…

 

“I would find myself scouting and scurrying for places to feed! Even though some places like airports had nursing rooms (aka babycare rooms), they were always adjacent to the public toilets, sans windows or views.”

They didn’t look like spaces that were comfortable, hygienic or family friendly. The whole experience to hide and feed felt unnatural. I felt isolated! In time, I have come to realize that that breastfeeding in public is the only way to normalize breastfeeding. Even though I acknowledge that all mothers should be able to make informed choices and in that spirit, the true and the only purpose of the nursing room is to be available for women who choose to use them. The existence of nursing rooms should never ever become a place that society tells a breastfeeding mother to go to, in order to feed their child. Nursing rooms should be about access and not about making breastfeeding in public awkward

“A mother who chooses to breastfeed in public should not be mocked, just because the society has made her a room! These rooms can be doors of choice, not cages of segregation. In our zeal to push forward the making of nursing rooms, we must see to it that the lines between the Right to Privacy and the Right to be in Public while breastfeeding shouldn’t ever blur.”

Day 2

Ashwini is a former corporate software trainer-turned-blogger. She blogs about fitness, health & parenting at www.fitbewell.com who felt the dire need of a feeding room while traveling.

Breastfeeding is a BIG deal in India. Especially, when it comes to feeding your baby in public.

It gets harrowing when you don’t have access to easy feeding rooms/booths outdoors, neither are you comfortable breastfeeding your child in public (even with the proper gear!) What’s worse for a new mom who’s traveling is that people don’t let her feed in peace with either of their sly or judgemental stares & creepy glances.

I had one such experience while traveling with my then 6.5 months old baby who wasn’t used to more than 2 solid meal sessions a day. I had my flight late in the evening & all of that made it a 5-hour haul journey to home. There were no feeding rooms in the airport. So being aware of it already, I took caution to pack tender coconut water in her sipper that I had refrigerated before leaving. And a few ripe elaichi bananas to save the day.

“I remember my daughter crying inconsolably & rooting for my breast at the airport lounge & all I could do was try to entice her with this totally new liquid & getting her to put the sipper in her mouth to taste it first. She had just a few sips & slept off tired. How I wish I could feed her in a separate room for that sake then!”

 

Day 3

Aditi shares her experience of not having a feeding room even in a posh hospital in Mumbai-Bandra. She was baffled, sad but remained adamant that her baby won’t be hungry. 

I had checked 10th time whether I had taken all the things. I was so glad that I didn’t need to carry additional items like bottles, warm water, and formula powder along since I breastfeed my baby. We had to go to a plush hospital at Bandra to see the doctor. I was overwhelmed to carry 2 weeks old baby in my arms yet proud of myself because I was turning out to be a better mom than I had expected.
As soon as we reached we were greeted by a huge crowd already waiting to see the same doctor. That is the only disadvantage of being with the best doctor. You will never be spared from waiting for your turn. There are two reasons. First and foremost this doctor had created my baby, yes, my boy is an IVF baby and she wished to see him. Secondly, I exclusively breastfeed him. Thus, there was no way to return from the doc before his next hunger pang.

While we comfortably seated at the waiting lounge, my baby was taking a warm nap in my lap. Our first trip outside – so far so good. Soon my little boy (Aarnav) woke up for his feed and I confidently walked up to the reception to enquire where the feeding room was.

“I couldn’t believe what they told me there! THERE WAS NO FEEDING ROOM. What?? A hospital which brags about an elite clientele including filmstars does not house a feeding room? A hospital which provides a leading IVF center does not provide a feeding room?”

For a moment my brain stopped working. I couldn’t understand what I must do next. By this time my little baby had started howling for feed and there was no place where I could feed him. I wished my baby was on formula milk and I could have fed him with a bottle so easily.

All said and done, it was important to feed my baby asap. I was going week in my knees to see how this little creature was screaming and wriggling for feed. Without any further thoughts, I went back to my seat in the waiting lounge, pulled over my dupatta so that it covers my chest, placed my baby on my lap, lifted my dress and allowed my baby to latch. I was sure uncomfortable but the satisfaction that bloomed on my baby’s face when he got his nectar washed away all the shame I was feeling. I was sure being stared at but it didn’t bother me much.

My baby needed his feed and I had to give him anyhow!
I am sure that many moms must have gone through a similar situation because India lacks the infrastructure. Most of the hospitals, clinics, malls, and restaurants lack the facility of feeding rooms. Hence most of the new mothers avoid stepping out with an exclusively breastfed child.

What can we do about it? *

Every facility especially places where babies and mommies may visit frequently MUST HAVE at least a small cabin or a booth with a decent drape to ensure privacy to the mom while breastfeeding. But before that what we need to work upon is to change the mindset of people. The ooohh and the aaahh that surround the breastfeeding needs to be stopped.

“The idea that breastfeeding must be done only at home should be abolished. For this, we need to create an awareness of how normal it is to breastfeed. If a toddler is hungry, won’t his mom just take a packet of food and feed him? Will the crowd stare at such mom? Then how different it is to feed an infant when he is hungry? Only because the mother needs to pull out her boob to feed the infant, does it qualify to be stared at and looked down upon? Does it make the breastfeeding mom shameless?”

I think we need more open talks and more education than can push breastfeeding in public down the thought of people. Once we have this awareness, automatically the facilities like malls, restaurants etc will consider the idea of providing cabins or booth for feeding.

We have a long way to go! But till then, find your way, never give up on breastfeeding. Promise to your exclusively breastfed infant that “I will never let you starve”

Way to go Aditi…..

Day 4- Story 1

Mihika Mavinkurvé shares her story…

When I became a mommy, I was very sure about wanting to exclusively breastfeed my little one. In all my enthusiasm what I didn’t expect was the difficulty I had to face with the lack of public feeding rooms. In a perfect world, it’d be great if we could normalize breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere, but sadly we still live in a society where you will be shamed for doing something that is completely normal like nourishing your child. It used to be difficult to plan outings with friends and family because I would have to feed my baby every 2 or 3 hours in the initial months after her birth and options of places with feeding rooms were so limited. My little one hated having a breastfeeding cover or stole over her head, and understandably so; she would cry her lungs out as soon as I tried to use a cover. I remember having gone to a famous 5-star Hotel in the city for lunch and they didn’t have a feeding room and I was asked to feed the baby in the restroom which made me feel absolutely disgusted.

“It’d be great to see institutions taking initiatives to make special spaces assigned for mothers to be able to feed babies. Not as a part of restrooms and public bathrooms, but more like a safe space where a mother can feed her child comfortably without having to worry about judgemental eyes or her baby being uncomfortable with a breastfeeding cover over their head; because let’s face it, no one likes to eat with a blanket over their head.”

Day 5

Mitali talks about the reason for staring the campaign about adding more feeding rooms in India. 

The reason I started this campaign was the fear in moms eyes that they will be ridiculed for feeding in public. Asking for a feeding room was even worse. Just yesterday when I and my husband had gone to watch a movie, I had to take my 2-month-old baby along because I am breastfeeding her and can’t leave her alone at home. So yes…the movie began and she started crying, I started feeding her and after 10 mins a couple in their mid-twenties walked in with their mobile torches, luckily I had a cover on so nothing could be seen, later in the interval, i could see the couple smirking and passing comments. Now…If there was a feeding room in such a huge theater, this would not have happened. Now…we can’t control peoples reactions because they don’t have kids they won’t understand.

“This is just one instance but I had to zoom out of an engagement party, cafe, restaurant, coffee shop, vets clinic and even a paediatrician’s clinic because there were no feeding rooms or even a simple space to feed my baby. We just talk about breastfeeding a baby till 6 months but it can only happen if a mother is allowed to sit lavishly without worrying for any kind of money, housework or has to resume work within 3-4 months or has to ever move out for 6 months of her life. Just imagine…even Starbucks does not have a feeding room!”

Day 6

Neha cites not one but 3 instances where she had to adjust and almost clench her teeth while feeding her baby. 

 

5 Star Hotels- This was the time when I had to attend a conference at a five-star hotel I asked them if they have any breastfeeding area or a room. And I was shocked they did not have any. I had to request the manager to arrange something for me & after some time they gave me a conference room for 30 mins I could feed my 4-month-old baby peacefully. 

Cabs- The Second instance was while travelling in cabs. It’s little difficult to feed as its clearly visible to the driver if we are sitting in the back seat. So I had to carry some dupatta or scarf to hide my baby inside and feed.

Trains- The local trains I feel they should have something or say some kind of compartment only for pregnant and breastfeeding ladies.

Not only Neha but millions of ladies in India are facing these difficulties…time to raise this issue mommies...

Day 7

Rashi wants the city to know the grave need for feeding rooms and the hassles faced by moms due to the lack of them. 

I remember feeding my baby in the back seat of my car during her vaccination trips to the doc there wasn’t a single feeding room in the suburbs and this was my only option. On her 6th month mark, we decided to take her on the sea link for a joyful drive. She got hungry halfway through the drive my only option was to park my car in one of the bylanes of cumballa hills and feed her.

our city can take tiny baby steps towards accommodating feeding rooms at public places like malls, restaurants, theaters etc. This will go a long way towards making new moms and their precious babies venture into the outside world without hesitation or excessive planning.

All the moms have seriously wished a need for more feeding rooms in the city of Mumbai. Time to put this into action.

Keep on breastfeeding…

XOXO

SuperMOM Mitali

 

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