Breastfeeding your baby can be a rewarding, magical experience – except when it’s done under prying eyes. Like at a restaurant or at the park. Or even inside the see-through shelter of your car. Unfortunately in India, breastfeeding in public is still considered a social taboo, a sensationalist spectacle for nosy passersby. Absurd, considering the practice has naturally endured since the dawn of (woman)kind. In a country and age where nursing in public still ushers whispers, sparking a perceptual change is of the essence. And examples, the need of the hour.
Here’s looking at you, new mommy.
The key to breastfeeding outside your home lies in being sensitive of your environment and the people around. Here are some tips to guide you through.
1. Put Comfort First
Hey, it’s your body and your baby; you deserve comfort no matter where you are. It’s important to be at ease while you’re nursing; not only will this allow you to stay relaxed, it will also transfer soothing vibes to your baby. Although it’s natural to feel out of sorts when you’re in public, you can make breastfeeding easier by finding devices to enhance your experience. Use a baby blanket or shawl to veil yourself while nursing. Also, make smart choices with clothing. Pick discreet, button-down outfits that are easy to navigate and nurse out of.
2. Stay One Step Ahead
Keep your baby bag stocked with nursing essentials to make your time away from home as seamless as possible. Pack wet wipes, washcloths and a change of shirt for you and your baby in case of any mishaps. Being in public means you have to take extra care, and have all your trusty hygiene essentials on hand. Also, remember you need to stay energised to feed your little one, so carry snacks, energy bars and water too.
3. Celebrate the Process
Breastfeeding is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a beautiful bonding process with your baby whose every moment you ought to cherish. Keep your chin up regardless of where you are.
4. Pack Light
If you’re used to having an arsenal of nursing aids beside your bedside, you’re going to want to lose the frills before you step outdoors. By itself, breastfeeding is the most convenient, lightweight process there is – unlike the impedimenta of baby formula and bottles. Learn to nurse minimally. Lose the nursing pillow, the back support and anything else you’re used to at home, to prepare you for an environment with zero aids.
5. Pick a Peaceful Setting
Eating – even for adults – is best done in a hushed environment, where the focus remains on the food. Extend that to a sensitive infant, and the logic rings even truer. If you’re outdoors, pick a quiet spot without distractions. This way, your baby is likely to take to the feed faster. If you’re pressed for quiet options, try covering your child with a blanket to cut off as much noise as possible.
6. Be Respectful
Most Indians aren’t used to seeing nursing mothers in public, so try not to take their reactions to heart. Be courteous when answering questions and keep to yourself to draw minimal attention. Also, be conscious of how much room you’re taking up. With your purse, diaper bag, blanket and baby, it’s easy to have your odds and sods running over into others’ designated areas, especially in planes, auditoriums and restaurants.
By taking the lead in breastfeeding in public, you can find yourself outdoors more often than you ever thought possible. Better still, you can be a shining catalyst for social change.