Women are emotionally very vulnerable during pregnancy. Nothing prepares you for how raw and exposed you feel post childbirth. When a woman enters motherhood, the learning curve is massive. She is not just creating a new life but is also completely responsible for their wellbeing and nourishment. New moms struggle with a lot of self-doubts, lack of body confidence and guilt mainly because we are unsure about everything.
It takes a while to figure out that there is no right or wrong way of dealing with parenting issues. Breastfeeding in public has always been a touchy topic, and being shamed for nursing your child in public is not a rare incidence. Apparently, a woman feeding in public is more offensive than a man eve-teasing in bright daylight.
Taking my own example, it has been three months since I delivered and I haven’t gathered the courage to go out with my son because I know that if he is hungry, I have no place to nurse him unless I am back home. For me to start getting back to my normal life, run errands, and start working again, I need to have the freedom to nurse my child whenever and wherever. Breastfeeding is a natural act, but there is so much stigma attached to it that the mother is automatically put on a guilt trip. “How can you flash it in public?” This is a massive issue which will take decades to change, but all we need is some empathy and a secure space to nurse and not feel judged.
As a mom blogger, I tried to make a list of areas reserved for nursing your child in public places, and the results were as expected – disappointing! Few malls have a table reserved to change and nurse in the restrooms; we are expected to feed our child in a public toilet, the most unhygienic place there is. A lot of mothers prefer feeding in dark car parks to avoid public attention. Most of the airports also follow a very similar pattern, barring only a few where there is a large area blocked for mothers to bond with their young toddlers while feeding them.
The problem is that we are living in a culture that has sexualised breasts so much that it is hard to look beyond it and accept the fact that they serve a bigger purpose in our lives. I am a millennial parent belonging to the privileged, well-educated section of our society. Yet I do not have the confidence to fight the stares and the unwanted attention that may come my way if I decided to feed in public.
I am more comfortable staying home and waiting to lead a normal life until my child grows older, but is this the right way to treat yourself? Shaming women who refuse to nurse their child behind a dirty wall or a toilet is very judgemental, especially because everyone has been a part of this natural cycle at some point in their lives.