02 Aug Braving Breastfeeding in Public
Exclusive breastfeeding simply means consumption of only human milk by a baby during first six weeks of life with no supplementation of any type (no water, no juice, no non-human milk and no foods) except for medications. India has a huge burden of having very high rates of infant mortality mainly due to undernutrition. Evidence suggests that initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and introduction of appropriate and adequate complementary food at 6-9 months of age, are the key essentials to prevent under-nutrition in children and to improve infant and child survival.
As per the NFHS- 3 data, the initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth was only 24.5%, and exclusive breastfeeding up to the age of six month only 46.4%. Interpretation of age wise data also reveals that exclusive breastfeeding rapidly declines from first month to sixth month, and only about 27.6 % children continue it by sixth month, giving a real low figure of exclusive breastfeeding.
One of the main reasons leading to this poor breast feeding rate is negative perception of breastfeeding in social settings due to discomfort amongst the women when breastfeeding in public. Even given a legal right, some mothers are reluctant to breastfeed.
For most of the new moms Breastfeeding in public is a matter of great concern. New moms become self conscious while feeding in public. However, this is something that cannot be avoided for long. Staying indoors all the time to suit the infants feeding schedules may not always be practical. Here are some useful ideas which will make breastfeeding in public a little easier for the mothers.
Wear Comfortable Clothes: To breastfeed easily, you should wear clothes which will help you to feed comfortably and discreetly in a public place. The first thing you need to buy is a breastfeeding bra it allows you to drop down a cup at the front easily and quickly. It is best if you wear at least a couple of layers of clothes. For example wear a vest and a top. Vests made of Lycra are really useful to wear under any other garment like a blouse or a top. This will cover your breasts and tummy when you open up or lift the outer top for access.
Look out for Breast Feeding: Friendly Places: Now days many shops and malls have special arrangements and designated spaces assigned for breastfeeding moms. You can look out for such places when you wish to feed your baby. Ascertain if a feeding place or a changing room exists close to where you are. This will make sure that the entire experience is a pleasant one for both you and the baby.
Get company of other moms: This will be a great confidence booster in the initial stages till the time you get used to feeding in public. Alternatively, you can also make your husband or mom stay with you while feeding in public.
Plan Your Outings: Plan your journey in such a way that you are always close to feeding friendly place – which could be your car, your family/friends’ place close to your area of visit.
The bottom line is that you must attempt to tame your inhibitions if you want to feed in public. As a new mom your hormones must already be creating lot of troubles in your life hence do not add to your troubles by being self-conscious while feeding your infant. You must understand that to breastfeed the baby is something very natural and appropriate for you to do and you must remain calm and stop being embarrassed. Breastfeeding in public is not something that will happen instantly, it is perfectly alright for you to take some time to get used to the idea. Just remember, you are doing the most beautiful thing by feeding the baby, being the major source of nutrition in her life!
– By Dr. Somendra Shukla, A focused pediatrics professional with more than 10 yrs of experience in Neonatology & paediatrics.