Public breastfeeding - Why it matters now, more than ever!
In observance of breastfeeding month, we at Out Of Focus Pictures went out and photographed a few moments where women were proud to celebrate their newfound motherhood, and this is their story. We're glad to be the first Indian company to be featured as a part of the public breastfeeding awareness project (PBAC), and through these photo-stories of public breastfeeding, we seek to celebrate perspectives such as the inherent pride in the act of nourishing and nurturing our babies, our decision to be inclusive when it comes to the needs of breastfeeding mothers, and a celebration of their truly diverse lifestyles.
Our goal was, is, and will remain the absolute normalization and de-shaming of public breastfeeding. Without further ado, here are some of the strongest voices that Deepak and I were able to locate.
These women have accepted that there is no shame in breastfeeding publicly when their child needs it, and all that they ask you to do in return, is to share their message. (You can share this article on Facebook, on Twitter, or with a new mother that you know!)
What Shubhreet has to say on public breastfeeding
I have realized that people will pass judgments either way.
It does not matter if you're feeding or not feeding, supplementing or not, or feeding for either a short or long period of time. The attitude of most people towards breastfeeding is irritable, and needs to change. This (breastfeeding) is a journey between mothers and their children (and to an extent, their fathers, too!). Any intervention here is just blatantly disrespectful of a mother's right to nurture life.
Such opinions should not be repeated over and over again to a mother who is trying to breastfeed her child, and her decision needs to be respected as paramount. We as a society need to collectively empower mothers with both information, and the freedom to choose how and where they want to breastfeed their child.
What Vaishali has to say on public breastfeeding
The first time I faced flak for public breastfeeding, was when I took my daughter on a flight with me for the first time!
The sheer amount of glares, judgment and advice that I got from random people before exiting the aircraft, almost made me feel like a felon!
The thing is, breastfeeding has been about her (my daughter's) nutrition and immunity primarily, but it has also saved me. On extremely difficult days, breastfeeding has helped me soothe her, allowing me to retain my own sanity. It has also helped me heal when I needed it the most. It has helped me calm an angry toddler down in my solo-parenting days. I would like to state unapologetically, that nursing in public cannot be considered taboo. It (breastfeeding) is the first, foremost and primary functional task of our breasts!
What Vaishnavi has to say on public breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a relationship worth nurturing.
We really need to work on dispelling myths around breastfeeding and help more mothers initiate and continue the act of breastfeeding into toddlerhood, or for as long as the child needs it! For this, unconditional support from a new mother's immediate family and extended society is critical.
What Khyati has to say on public breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is not easy, and yet it is extremely important.
It is one of the hardest things that I learnt to do as a new mother, and just this week I ended up with blisters and lumps and fought with mastitis again, but it is also my magic wand. I call it my magic wand because it lets me put my baby to sleep, helps him keep calm, gives us a moment of peace when we both need it, and above all it gives my child all the nutrition he needs to grow up healthy!
I have never really felt uncomfortable while nursing in public, as I am usually too busy looking into my baby’s eyes. But I must admit, feeding in public can be intimidating (even among people you know), especially if these people are uninformed. They tend to make you conscious.
The biggest issue with public breastfeeding in India is that people discourage you more often than encouraging you to do it. It takes an immense amount of willpower in new mothers to continue feeding. I have found peer groups and initiatives (such as this photo-stories of nursing mothers) as an interesting way of talking to fellow mothers about the importance of breastfeeding your baby.
What Deepa has to say on public breastfeeding
India used to be a breastfeeding friendly nation.
Almost all our ancient scriptures symbolize a mother’s breast as a pitcher full of nectar. Somewhere on the lines of modernisation and in the process of struggling with our own misguided social and cultural hindrances, breastfeeding became surrounded by misinformation and tarnished with moral policing.
I don’t have to go out of my way to breastfeed in public to prove a point, but I have come to realise that just like Mumbai’s monsoons, a baby’s cry to be fed, is at the end of the day, unpredictable. Would you rather hide your baby, or let your baby cry? I prefer to take a deep breath, look into my baby’s eyes and let the the downpour drown out any shameful comments or stares. Breastfeeding turns the world into a blur for me, and I feel grounded and I become calm. I am certain that we (Indian mothers) can regain our lost confidence back in breastfeeding, by prioritising our babies above everything else.
What Nilima has to say on public breastfeeding
I couldn’t breastfeed my firstborn because I didn't know enough.
Doctors kept pushing me towards formula nutrition due to my low milk supply, and the fact that I did not opt for proper lactation consultation and guidance. On top of this, I was working, so formula-feeding became my savior and an easy way out for my family to manage and feed my baby.
However, the second time around, I prepped myself with information, asked for support from my fellow mommy friends and my baby latched on like a pro! I feel there is no difference between breastfeeding publicly or in private. It's breastfeeding! When heading out, I always dress so that I am ready to breastfeed. I carry stuff that I might need to nurse. Because when your baby is hungry, you can't do much else, other than feeding him/her. Whenever, wherever!
What Lakshmi has to say on public breastfeeding
I strongly assert that public breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding are not crimes!
It is a completely natural phenomenon. Historically, our culture has been tolerant of the act but the way we've progressed as a society, people have started frowning. Through my personal breastfeeding journey, I have realized that it is a source of emotional support for my child.
Unlike common perception, it (breastfeeding) does not make your child clingy. In fact, the notion of breastfeeding for a few more months is not supposed to be termed 'extended breastfeeding'. It is much simpler to call it full-term breastfeeding, because that's just the truth.