As mothers don't find a safe space to breastfeed their babies in the work environment, the breastfeeding rate has decreased since women employment has increased. Motherhood is an admirable and enjoyable period in one's life. But unfortunately, when it comes to extending support to create a supportive safe space for working moms, there's no consent.
The main issue that a lactating mother faces in the workplace is the lack of policies and rooms for breastfeeding. Till society takes time to adapt breastfeeding to be normal, moms need a designated room to breastfeed their babies.
People are hostile towards this natural phenomenon. There's a lack of accommodations to pump or store breast milk and a lack of flexibility for milk expression in the official schedules.
It's time to create breastfeeding-friendly workspaces. People fail to acknowledge the need for privacy while breastfeeding that a new mom would need after returning to the workplace. Even after knowing the health benefits of breastfeeding, new moms are compelled to return to work within twelve weeks of giving birth.
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, there was an amendment included in 2010, Affordable Care Act (ACA), titled “Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision”. This provision dictates that companies with 50 or more employees must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to feed their baby breastmilk”.
Today some of the biggest and best companies like Nordstrom, General Mills, IBM, and Ford Motor Company are beginning to design and implement plans to add lactation lounges throughout the office.
Delhi's Barakhamba Metro station has set up a women's convenience lounge within the metro premises that offers commuting mothers a breastfeeding facility to feed their babies during the journey. It is also equipped with a diaper changing kiosk and will also offer free sanitary pads. The lounge has a capacity to seat at least six women, with a woman helper at all times to assist comfort to commuters.
Australian Senator Larissa Waters was the first politician to breastfeed in the nation's parliament.
Boobs are normal. Why does society doesn't understand it's just another part of the body. For years boobs have been over-sexualised and objectified through films, songs and magazines, so much that people end up making breastfeeding mothers feel uncomfortable with their gazes. People don't shy or even blink while boobs are objectified on the screens but when they see a mother breastfeeding her baby they go to the extent of shielding their eyes out of shame.
The insanity that repulses new moms is the societal dysfunction that has fetishised boobs to an extent where they are always sexualised.
Swapna Aiyer, a working new mom said, “Do you eat in the washroom? Then why I am expected to breastfeed my baby there!”
Why is a mom made to feel so uncomfortable that she is forced to feed her breast milk to her baby in the washroom? We use washrooms to discard waste, it's not a hygienic place to breastfeed a baby. A woman needs space to express milk in a clean and private environment.
Dr Radhika Sachdev, a paediatrician explained, “Mother's breast milk contains all basic nutrition that an infant needs in the initial six months of their life, the infant adapts to nutritional changes gradually. Breast milk contains valuable antibodies which help infants fight infections as it develops immunity during the initial stages.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until babies are six months, saying it can be continued till age two, complemented with other homemade food.
If this needs to be followed, then we need to make it easier for new moms to breastfeed their babies in public and by enabling facilities for them at workplaces.
CitySpidey spoke to a senior journalist Yogesh Pawar who has been actively writing on gender and exclusion. On normalising breastfeeding in public and workplaces, Pawar explained the root cause and how we can normalise breastfeeding, he said, “In a patriarchal society like ours, women's body parts are always sexualised and objectified and that's where the root cause of the problem lies. When a mother breastfeeds publically, people gaze at her and end up sexualising her breasts without respecting the context.”
Pawar exemplified while explaining and said, “Ancient women wore only jewellery, and they weren't ashamed of what they were doing. Again, in villages, you'll see women working in paddy fields with their salwars hitched up until to their upper thighs standing in the water to transplant paddy, and here their legs aren't sexualised or looked at to be objectified. Mammals are given mammary to feed their offspring, on one hand, we worship women as a goddess and on the other hand when she feeds her baby with her breast milk society's perverted minds objectify it by robbing all the agency of a woman over her body.”
He also added, “The problems of people in accepting breastfeeding in public comes from mindset and unless we address the root cause, the issue will not subside.”
“To normalise breastfeeding, we need to educate our young boys from their early childhood and teach our young girls not to be ashamed of their bodies. Children need to be nurtured in a gender-neutral way,” said Pawar.
It's a woman's prerogative to chose whether she is comfortable to feed in trains, buses, stations, markets or breastfeeding booths. Rural women from fisherman's families breastfeed their babies within the fish market, she isn't ashamed of doing so as she is being an earning resource to the family while being a mother at the same time which all the more calls for admiration for such women.
When CitySpidey spoke to Sanjay Ghanghaw, a senior HR consultant, he said, “Workplaces should be made breastfeeding friendly and equipped with pumping booths and storage facilities as well.”
Here are some ways how workspaces could be turned breastfeeding friendly:
Work schedules must be flexible for the milk expression period.
Anytime access to private locations for milk expression.
A sanitary space to be provided for pumping, cleaning and rinsing out breast-pump equipment.
Storage options shall be available to store breast milk.
A private place should be available for new moms. Both pumping or breastfeeding cannot be done discreetly, a proper private space and clean environment should be provided to respect their motherhood. Breastfeeding in public should be normalised, take the initiative yourself so that when the new generation procures, they're not brought up in such a dysfunctional manner.