Mother’s milk is the elixir of life, a wonder tonic that strengthens the baby’s immunity and helps him to grow at an optimum rate. Mother’s milk contains all the nutrients necessary to the baby’s physical and mental development and its tailor-made composition cleverly changes every day, adapting to the needs of each growing infant. As a natural immunizer Mother’s milk is the best way to safeguard the baby from malnutrition and infections. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development while breastfeeding can be continued up to two years.However, despite its known advantages, Mother’s milk is still fighting for acceptance all over the globe.
Come to think of it, breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. Public or private, women should have the freedom to exercise their right to breastfeed their baby wherever and whenever they like. However there is a large set of women who wish to continue breastfeeding but fear to be socially criticized for endorsing it. Everyone appreciates the idea of a mother being indispensable to life but as soon as it comes to what it requires, we make the ladies of our houses sit at home to breastfeed, taking away their freedom to go out, at least for more than two hours, as the baby will need to feed in this time frame.
India is a nation that supports breastfeeding in public and mothers breastfeeding in public in rural areas is a common scene. It is still widely accepted, normal even. Besides, breastfeeding in public is a federal in India and there are friendly acts in the nation that should enable mothers to breastfeed their babies confidently in public. It has been lately quite advertised that in some countries like the US what is a very natural act of love between a mother and her child is instead perceived as a provocation, an act of public nudity, almost of sexual exposition. The fear of being discriminated for nursing their baby in public is one of the major reasons why women tend to leave breastfeeding and switch to formula feeding. In India however, even in metros, the acceptance is much better. It is more of an apprehension from mothers that hold them back rather than society itself.
The barriers faced by a lactating mother are also about lesser emotional support from her family who want a ‘healthy’ child who ‘needs to be fed every time he cries’. It is also about the pressure of managing career and motherhood, the lack of proper infrastructure, her own health to an extent if she gets sick during that period, or even the desire to “own” her body again.
There is a dire need to SPREAD AWARENESS on the subject starting from the composition of Mother’s milk, killing myths related to it and trigger conversations about how it proves to be an antidote for most of infancy related diseases, without forgetting how breastfeeding can be beneficial to the mother’s health and wellbeing, thanks to the secretion of hormones for instance, or in the weight loss process. There is a segment of society that needs to step in to drive realization on BREASTFEEDING and RELATED ASPECTS. With initiatives by the Health Ministry, the Government and NGO’s, the attempt should be to strengthen breastfeeding as a culture and also to equip mothers with an environment where they can peacefully breastfeed their baby without fearing any qualms.
One such step to empower mothers to breastfeed their babies on the go has been taken by Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation Limited. JMRCL have established baby feeding rooms in the name of ‘Amrit Kaksha’ at their metro stations to empower women passengers to practice breastfeeding while travelling. Similarly, the government should also establish public spaces that enable mothers to privately breastfeed their babies while travelling, away from the heat, the dust, the noise, or the indiscreet gazes. Populated public spaces like railway stations, bus stands, metro stations, airports etc., should provide lactation rooms to help mothers choose breastfeeding instead of artificial milk.
One of the main reasons for the decline of breastfeeding even among healthy women who could breastfeed if they wanted to, is the promotion of manufactured milk substitutes. And the fact that experts have kept proving and emphasizing that nothing can replace a mother’s milk is not stopping this trend. Therefore, in the light of the prevailing situations, the Government must actively voice issues related to mother and child health in order to initiate a real change of the breastfeeding scenario in India.
Along with the Government, the corporates must also contribute in easing the lives of mothers who decide to go back to their career without giving up their right to breastfeed by providing an understanding and encouraging environment. For instance, companies can offer proper nursing facilities (bright, relaxing and comfortable rooms, fridges etc.), extended maternity leaves up to six months, flexible time and work from home policy so that they can manage their double shift work: in their professional life and at home. Some companies in India have even gone a step ahead in the support of nursing mothers pursuing their career and have established Lactation Rooms in their organizations and extended maternity leaves upto six and a half months period making it easy for their women work force to manage career and motherhood alongside. One such firm based in Bangalore, sponsors baby and nanny for business trips!
Therefore, it’s high time that mothers should shed their inhibitions related to breastfeeding and come forward to take breastfeeding as a decision without any qualms. So, all proud mothers out there, when it comes to breastfeeding, confidence is key — the more you do it, the less self-conscious you'll be!
[img src: medicaldice.com]