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It was time for my newborn daughter's first vaccination. I reached the hospital at around 9 a.m. with my mother in tow after checking the consultation timings of the paediatrician. I was flabbergasted to see the crowd! And this was one of the biggest and finest private children's hospital in the city! I handed over my sleeping daughter to my mother and finding a corner for them to stand (there were no empty seats available), I went in search of the nurse in-charge. I gave my daughter's name to her and was further frustrated to notice that she was Patient number 78. Well, I said to myself, you are in for a long day
After somehow managing to find seats for us to sit, we just chatted for a while. And then my daughter woke up. This definitely meant she was hungry. I looked around trying to find a spare room where I could feed my daughter. But I could not even find an isolated spot anywhere, let alone a room. By now my daughter had started crying. In desperation, I approached the head nurse again and asked her if there was a nursing room available. With a bored look, she got up and asked us to follow. I immediately swept up my wailing daughter and almost ran behind the nurse to the place she was pointing. I was shocked to see that she had actually led me to the store room. "You can feed her here", she said.
Almost seething with anger that a so-called multi-specialty hospital doesn't even have a basic nursing room, I settled down on the rickety, dusty chair and with my mother standing in a strategic position in front of the door to give us some privacy, I started nursing my baby with as much dignity as I could muster. My baby wouldn't still calm down thanks to the fact that the room didn't even have a fan. Finally it was our turn to visit the doctor (which was around 1 p.m.), and after getting the necessary vaccinations, we left.
I am very sure that countless other mothers would have faced this situation while visiting hospitals or any other public place with their babies in tow. In India, we frown upon breast-feeding in public. We get scandalous looks and hear comments from aunties like "Have you no shame or dignity!". While the same aunties will question you on another occasion "Why is your child looking so malnourished? It seems you do not feed him/her properly? I guess you want to maintain your figure, that's why you aren't feeding your baby frequently?"
I would like to say to such Aunties, believe us, we are concerned about our child's nutrition as much as you are, but thanks to our hypocritical society, it is impossible to ensure sustainable breast-feeding for long.
Working mothers come under much scrutiny by default, but Stay-at-Home Moms are not spared either. It is highly essential to provide a happy and stress-free environment for both a mother and her baby. The entire process of breastfeeding is not purely nutritional, but it is a process of physical and emotional bonding between mother and baby. My grandma would say, "While feeding, always have positive thoughts in your mind. A baby can sense when the mother is stressed and it will affect its feeding ability as well. Even lactation process is affected by stress. Meditate, Breathe and Relax. Just take the time to admire the little wonder now nestled in your arms".
People at home, especially husbands, can volunteer to help the mothers have some peace and privacy while feeding. They can watch over the elder kids for sometime or help out with small chores while the mother is feeding. The women of the house too need to encourage the mothers facing difficulties while feeding. First time mothers need special guidance on handling of the baby during and after the feeding process, as babies are more in the risk of choking if not burped properly. New mothers should also be advised on proper nutrition which would facilitate lactation. Supplements can be taken with doctor's advice if required. Most of all, please ensure that the new mothers get ample rest and relaxation.
Finally, public places need to take up the initiative to install more private nursing rooms. Nestle Start Healthy Stay Healthy has just taken up an initiative to set up 1000 feeding rooms across the country, and this has been lauded as an excellent effort.
Only with a broad-minded approach and support initiatives will the nation progress with proper breastfeeding and care and help to give rise to a generation of healthy superbabies!
Mommies; never ever compromise feeding your baby for ANYTHING. Work can wait, but your growing up baby won't.
Happy Breastfeeding Week dear mommies!