The latest issue of Malayalam magazine Grihalakshmi has been turning heads with its front cover, featuring a breastfeeding mother. The model on the cover cradles her baby while looking boldly into the camera. The text on the front reads: “Mothers tell Kerala, ‘please don’t stare, we need to breastfeed’”.
The simple and natural act of breastfeeding a child has long been a taboo. To do it, nursing mothers have been forced to hide away – sometimes in removed parts of their homes, sometimes in unsanitary toilets. Many have said that if people wouldn’t have dinner in a bathroom stall, then why should infants suffer this imposition? In fact, in the run-up to Women’s Day on March 8, Grihalakshmi has launched a campaign to fight the taboo against breastfeeding. The inspiration came from a post uploaded to Facebook by a young mother, who later told the magazine about how she was told off for feeding her newborn in the hospital: “Some even said that if I fed my child without covering my breasts, they would dry up very soon. These are all age-old superstitions which are still being spread by young people. Some would even throw a towel on me while I fed my baby and then check if I was trying to remove it.”
This sort of backward and ridiculous attitude needs to change. Too many Indians are more offended by the sigh of a mother breastfeeding, than they are of misogynist depictions of women in so much of our media. Grihalakshmi’s front cover is trying to remedy that.
The magazine is no stranger to batting for women’s rights. In 2016, its team organised the Women’s Midnight Half-Marathon, started on at 10.30pm on January 30, and ending in the wee hours of January 31.
According to the Indian Readership Survey of 2014, Grihalakshmi sold 826,000 copies. With the magazine’s reach, the image of open breastfeeding is definitely going to help people see that breastfeeding is not something to be ashamed or secretive about.
The last time we saw something like this so publicly was in 2016, when the National Health Commission released a similar image promoting one of its programmes. Let’s not forget this was a government sponsored ad which appeared in newspapers!
Going forward, it would be great for more and more regional and national publications follow in Grihalakshmi’s steps, because we need it!