It’s hot and groggy. You have had an eventful day walking around the mall or park. You are tired and you are hungry. So hungry, you could cry. The aroma of food is wafting towards you and you perk up. But, just as your plate of food appears, someone throws a black cloth over your head. Confused, you look up but all you can see is darkness. You can’t find the fork to eat your food, the plate slips.
Would you be frustrated? I know I would.
And now, imagine this. You’ve had an eventful day and are tired. All you want to do is tuck into your plate of dal rice and get that ‘Yes, I am home’ feeling permeate your bones. But instead, I drag you to an armchair that I’ve placed in my bathroom and give you your food there. The aroma of your dal-rice is replaced with the smell of fake lavender air freshener and every time you take a bite you hear the sound of a flush.
Is this the best place to enjoy your food? Not for me.
Well, if its not okay for you to eat while you suffocate under a piece of cloth or to have your food in a bathroom, then why is it okay for my child to have food in these circumstances?
Even before Baby M was born, I was gifted a ‘breast-feeding cover’. Not knowing any better, I thought it was a great gift and even packed it for my hospital bag. After I had breast-fed the first few times in the hospital and got my bearing on how it worked, everyone including the nurses told me to cover up. I must keep my breast covered or my child would be the victim of ‘nazar’ or the evil eye and my milk supply would magically stop.
The only problem? Baby M hated it. The moment his face was covered he would latch off my breast and when I persisted feeding him under the cloth his face would become red with sweat and frustration.
To resolve this, my parents suggested I ditch the cover and use a muslin cloth as air could pass through the cloth but somehow magically block the evil nazar. I tried that too and this time I was the one that hated it. Studies have shown that breast-feeding releases the love hormone ‘oxytocin’ which enables moms to form a close bond with their baby. But, it felt weird holding my baby and feeding him without being able to look at him. It was when he was feeding that he’d make all these cute little expressions or stare into my eyes and I frankly didn’t want to miss any of these moments.
When I protested the cloth, the compromise came up that I should only cover up if there were guests at home or if I was outside. And, if neither option suited then I should go feed in the bedroom at home or in a secluded corner outside like a bathroom which has those feeding chairs placed in a corner.
This infuriated me. If you’re coming to meet the baby surely you knew that babies need to be fed. So why must I hide in the bedroom for hours (especially in the early days when each feed takes 45+ minutes) while you chat away happily? You don’t eat your dinner hiding in the bedroom and neither will my child! And, while I am not a fan of flashing my boobs in public I certainly will not feed my child sitting in an unhygienic bathroom where germs abound simply so you don’t have to look at my breasts.
These days everyone is talking about how mothers must exclusively breastfeed their babies for atleast six months. However, no one talks about how mom’s are forced to cover up or are treated like pariah’s while they breastfeed. Our bodies were made to provide sustenance to our children. How else can you explain the magic that is you milk coming in as soon as you give birth?
The only way we can encourage breastfeeding is by removing the perceived shame with feeding your child whenever and wherever they are hungry. Whether that’s in a cab, while you are on a walk or when you have family over at home. I am not saying walk around flashing your boobs but you don’t have to feel compelled to leave a room or situation simply to feed your child either.
Baby M is now five months old and I am proud to share that we have fed together in parks, on malls benches, in cabs, at home, in the plane, at weddings and at cafes. No, I won’t cover up and neither should you!