In November 2018, a member of our Facebook support group - Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM) - was shopping with her baby in one of Kolkata’s malls.
When her baby was hungry and wanted to breastfeed, she was asked to feed the baby in the toilet! When she reported this on the mall’s Facebook page, she was asked to do her ‘home chores at home.’ The BSIM team and our members were outraged when we found out about this incident and launched the #FreedomToNurse campaign. The main aim of the campaign was to raise awareness around breastfeeding in public spaces.
This campaign caught the attention of the Ministry of Woman And Child Development this International Women’s Day. There were 29 other women, other than me, who were awarded the #WebWonderWomen award — for bringing a change in society using social media as a medium.
Apart from our online awareness drive on the need to support breastfeeding in public, peaceful demonstrations were conducted by members of BSIM in various cities as part of the campaign. Groups of mothers gathered at malls across the country for the demonstration, breastfed their respective children together, holding placards and distributed flyers.
TOILET IS NOT THE PLACE
Breastfeeding mothers should breastfeed anywhere and however they and their babies are comfortable. Toilets are most definitely not a place to feed a baby. Breastfeeding is a baby eating its food. Would you expect an adult to eat in a toilet? Then why should babies? I personally have breastfed both my babies in bus stops, buses, train stations, trains, airports, in flights, in markets and everywhere else whenever my babies were hungry. All of my experiences have been positive, bar one incident when I was asked to breastfeed in a toilet in a posh restaurant in Pune. I was confident at that time and could stand up for myself.
There’s nothing shameful about providing a human baby with human milk. That is fine-tuned to the specific child. We need to see breastfeeding parents out and about, carrying on their lives as they breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding women should not be limited to specific spaces. Whether the breastfeeding parent wishes to cover up or not is a decision to be taken by the person that is breastfeeding. If a bystander has a problem with it, it is the bystander who should move away.
Health organisations suggest breastfeeding for a minimum of two years, should we be expecting the breastfeeding parent not to step out of the house during the course of their entire breastfeeding journey because it makes others uncomfortable?
We are comfortable with seeing models advertising lingerie on television but don’t want to see women providing milk for their babies with their breasts and this needs to change. Next time you see a mother breastfeeding in public, don’t shame her, applaud her for breastfeeding in public.
— Adhunika Prakash from Pune, currently residing in Bahrain, is a mother of two and winner of the #WebWonderWomen award announced this week. She founded the group Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers on Facebook that has more than 90,000 members.
NURSING LAWS IN INDIA, AROUND THE WORLD
- India does not have a law that specifically protects the rights of breastfeeding parents. Neither is there a law, which makes it illegal for any establishment or entity to ask a breastfeeding parent to leave or stop.
- In the UK, the Equality Act, 2010 says that “A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age.”
- In the US, breastfeeding at public places have been legalised and protected under law.
- Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.