The incident of a woman being shamed publicly for breastfeeding her infant on a train has left us shell-shocked.
32-year-old Swapna Kulkarni Ajgaonkar and her husband, Amir, were onboard the Deccan Queen on Sunday when like any other mother of an infant, she started breastfeeding her hungry son. Seeing this “scandalous” scene, fellow co-passengers started a grotesque protest. She was asked to get off the train because she dared to breastfeed her child publicly!
What world do we live in where a sight of a mother breastfeeding her child is labelled as disgusting? And, what is it about breastfeeding that makes so-called “literate” India so uncomfortable? Are we ashamed of the fact that we all have had our days when we lived off breast milk?
Maybe it happens only in urban society. I have seen people in “rural India” that the so-called “cultured society” often terms as “backward” is far more open about breastfeeding than their urban counterparts. For them, it’s a normal process and definitely not a big deal.
Ajgaonkar, after entering a train compartment, settled in someone else’s seat because the train was teeming with people and started nursing her child. In no time, the couple was bullied for such “unacceptable” behaviour and was called out for such “disturbing” view. The public was incensed that the woman, who held an unreserved pass holders’ seat, dared to take the right to care of her child. She was humiliated by an elderly man, who found the sight of a mother nursing her child objectionable.
It’s a pity that a woman had to be ostracised for doing something that’s biologically normal. With the over-sexualisation of breasts, breasts aren’t being associated with their raison d’être
“I could not believe the insensitivity of my co-passengers. I was not planning to occupy the seat throughout the journey but just for a little while to feed my child comfortably. When I refuted the elderly man’s comments, he immediately called the TTE, who was not supportive either. They bullied us for stepping into ‘their zone’ which I feel is unfair. It did not end there either, as the man started to give us a lecture on the laws that Indian citizens fail to follow,” a dejected Swapna told Pune Mirror.
The upset mother then put up her ordeal on Facebook, clearing her and her husband’s stand that she has no problem breastfeeding in public. It’s the public that makes it a big issue.
This blatant show of disgrace urged us to question why Indians are rude about a natural process. SheThePeople.TV spoke to Adhunika Prakash, founder of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers, about the incident. “It’s a pity that a woman had to be ostracised for doing something that’s biologically normal. With the over-sexualisation of the breasts, breasts aren’t being associated with their raison d’être,” Adhunika said.
“Women shouldn’t be breastfeeding behind closed doors and we need to encourage women to breastfeed in public if we wish to invest in the better health of our nation,” she urged.
Breastfeeding is not just Nature’s best food for the child but also essential for bonding between mother and child which promotes feelings of safety and security for the child, thus ensuring good mental health as an adult
Kavita Mukhi from La Leche League Leaders, which backs the natural act of breastfeeding, told us, “The safest and most essential first food for a child at risk! What next? The sanctity of mother and child needs to be maintained at all costs. Separate feeding room or tolerant public which maybe too much to ask.”
“Breastfeeding is not just Nature’s best food for the child but also essential for bonding between mother and child which promotes feelings of safety and security for the child, thus ensuring good mental health as an adult. And we know the importance of happiness in a society wherein depression is becoming a huge problem. Yes, breastfeeding is crucial to wellbeing,” Kavita hailed the benefits.
She added, “I feel there should be a law that ensures that anyone wanting to be a mother should breastfeed her baby for a minimum of one year. And nurses, doctors and hospitals should support this by giving valid information on the subject. Mother’s milk is Nature’s first organic food for the baby! For me, it is miraculous how the mother’s body can exclusively feed her child for the first six months when a baby actually doubles in weight, the only time in a human’s life that this happens.”
It is crucial that we eradicate the stigma around “breastfeeding” and accept the most natural form of babycare.
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