KOCHI: As the world celebrates Breastfeeding Week, many young mothers in the state feel Kerala society is not progressive about public breastfeeding. Further, they fail to get the desired support from partners and family members to bring up children
As the world celebrates Breastfeeding Week from August 1 to 7, the state is witnessing many gender-sensitive campaigns that drive home the point that taking care of babies is not just mothers’ responsibility. But the truth is that they mostly feel the pressure right from delivery, with most people in society still staring at young women who breastfeed their babies in public.Many young mothers feel Kerala society is not progressive about public breastfeeding. While offices fail to arrange a proper space for mothers to pump milk, many say sometimes even elderly women give embarrassing looks when they do so.
For Kochi-based journalist Sreelakshmi Nair, a mother of two, the post-delivery period at her workplace was not at all comfortable.
“I delivered my first child six years ago. My shift, back then, was eight-and-a-half hours’ duration, which is more than enough time for milk to accumulate. However, at work, it was difficult to pump or store milk. During busy hours, it was difficult to go to the washroom and collect milk,” said Sreelakshmi, who delivered her second child a month ago.
Sreejisha Laila, another young mother from Thiruvananthapuram, said the city is not a breastfeeding-friendly space. She said even a majority of the hospitals in the city have not allocated separate rooms or kiosks for breastfeeding mothers.
“I found one such spot at the Thycaud Government Women and Children’s Hospital recently. Be it government or private, every hospital must have a breastfeeding space that ensures safety and privacy. It’s difficult to feed babies in public spaces. The Technopark campus may have such facilities but not the common spaces in the capital city. If we are travelling, we have to feed babies inside our car by parking it on the roadside. It would be great if the government sets up breastfeeding kiosks, shelters or comfort spaces. This will also help non-native women, who reach the city with their babies for emergency purposes,” she said.
Campaign to change public attitude
The state women and child department (WCD) is running a campaign on breastfeeding. Because of the pandemic, it will be held online this time.“Our theme this year is ‘Protect Breastfeeding, Share Responsibility’ with a special focus on ‘Men speak about breastfeeding’. There is a notion that breastfeeding is solely the responsibility of the mother, but the spouse/partner has an equal responsibility. Other members of the family should make sure that the mother is at peace and support her. People should make the workplace and public space woman- and child-friendly for the lactating mothers,” said WCD assistant director Bindu Gopinath.
The official said the department was planning to create a milk bank. She said the department will ensure at least two breastfeeding zones in each district. “A paediatrician will be made available for spt consultation as well as for teleconsultation to create awareness on integrated management for childhood diseases. We will also audit breastfeeding zones, including the existing ones, frequently,” Bindu added.
Apart from social media, WCD is publicising the campaign also in print and other media. The department has entered into a tie-up with the KSRTC for the campaign and the bus branding was flagged off by Health Minister Veena George on Thursday. Ajithkumar R, senior ideation head at Maitri, said normalising breastfeeding was the main aim of the campaign. “The theme this year is sharing responsibility by family members, especially partners. So, we wanted to highlight it in the campaign,” he said.
To support the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative launched by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF in 1991, the department is stressing on educating the public on the importance of lactation counselling. “The 158 nutrition clinics in the state, which were shut during the lockdown, have been reopened. Service of nutritionists and paediatricians will also be available here. If the clinic is included in a restricted area, teleconsultation will be provided. Through counselling, the mother and family will be educated on how to hold the child, feed it, etc,” said Bindu Gopinath.