So August is the National Breastfeeding Month, I wonder how many people other than moms who breast feed know that such a day exists. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world so why do people have such strong opinions about how and where it can and cannot be done? Since becoming a mom, I have managed to pump and breastfeed just about every possible place including under a tree at Niagara Falls! It has not been easy especially since I am an introvert by nature and felt strangely exposed breastfeeding in public. It took time and courage to finally feel comfortable doing something which was the most natural and beneficial thing for my baby. Most malls were disappointing in the lay out of the so called “Family Room”. It always manages to be uncomfortable, smelly and not at all conducive to mother and child bonding time. It amazes me that a grand mall with designer brands would not want to invest a little bit in making the Family Room reasonably comfortable. I am hazarding a guess that no one has ever complained or even raised the issue. I am sure the men in suits sitting around the board table have no clue of the purpose the aforesaid family room. Voices need to be raised, emails need to be sent and perhaps just walking up to customer service and lodging a formal complaint could hopefully get the ball rolling. We moms have so much on our plates but yes, we still need to think about these issues and bring these issues to light.
I have encountered a lot of ignorant and downright intrusive questions about my breastfeeding decision and journey. But I have to admit that along the way I have also encountered kindness and consideration. It amazes me that people still think that breastfeeding is either some outdated act of mothering or a new hippie fashionable thing to do. Being a South Asian woman I feel most questions that were directed at me about my decision to do extended breastfeeding and to pump while at work, centered on some vague notion of me being decidedly old fashioned, marginalized or even being forced into it. I made a point to talk freely about breastfeeding and the fact that IT DID NOT BOTHER ME. It was my decision, it was the most natural thing in the world, it has been done for generations and it did not need to be questioned as encroaching on my freedoms in any way.
I am pleasantly surprised that most hospitals and pediatricians are trying to promote and encourage breastfeeding whenever possible. It’s the work place which concerns me more. Most employers are not ready or aware of the need to provide a safe, clean and comfortable space for a breastfeeding mom to pump while at work. Ignorance is to blame, yet again. Most women cannot pump at work because there is simply no private place to do it or they just cannot take frequent breaks to pump to ensure their supply does not get affected. A lot needs to be done to normalize breastfeeding and to compel employers to be considerate towards the needs of a breastfeeding mother. It seems yet again that this is an issue that we as mothers need to talk about to our representatives at every level so that policies and procedures are put in place to make our lives easier. In the meantime, for all the new breastfeeding moms out there, feel no shame in doing the most beautiful thing in the world and yes, you may get awkward stares and intrusive questions but let none of those things deter you. And if you are someone who sees a mother breastfeeding and perhaps trying to cover up a wriggly slippery child just so the people around her do not feel ‘weird’, say a kind word or better yet, just be ok with that scene and remember it is the most natural and beautiful thing in the world.