EXCLUSIVE: Experts explain why there is so much stigma around breastfeeding in public

Updated on Jan 07, 2022 05:38 AM IST  |  143.2K
Stigma around breastfeeding in public
EXCLUSIVE: Experts explain why there is so much stigma around breastfeeding in public

You are walking around in a crowded market, or not-so-crowded courtesy of the pandemic, and see a woman breastfeeding her newborn. Does this catch your attention and makes you feel uncomfortable? If God forbid, the answer is yes, you might need to counsel yourself and ask what is that about a natural process that makes you feel otherwise?

If you are honest enough to reflect upon this, the answer most probably would lie in the fact that we have started to sexualise everything.

Go back in time. And most of us would be able to remember when there’s wasn’t so much hype about a mother breastfeeding a baby, or maybe it was but people were too ashamed to talk about it.

stigma around breastfeeding

This leaves us with a pertinent question. Why so much stigma around a natural process? Pulkit Sharma, a clinical psychologist, has an answer.

“This stigma comes from the backward thinking so to say. Some people don’t see human bodies as a natural thing but have associated lust with it. For them, a woman’s body is merely an object and this is why many people choose to shame them. Add to it, the patriarchy inculcated in us. That also has a role to play. Not to mention, a woman doing anything out in the public which doesn’t go well with a certain set of people is something to look down upon and click pictures as if it’s some kind of entertainment to them,” says Sharma.

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Dr Preeti Singh, Senior Consultant, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Paras Hospitals, Gurugram, adds that society and the family think that the journey to embracing motherhood is smooth. “Breastfeeding is an important aspect of motherhood and somehow has also become a parameter to judge her other than the benefits. It is, for sure, a very isolating and stressful phase for a new mother,” says Singh.

Singh says that how, when and wherever the mother wants to breastfeed should be her prerogative and no one else’s. And as a society, we need to see in what capacity we can support the new mother during this journey instead of judging and shaming them.

“Sensitisation when it comes to the act of breastfeeding should be done from the beginning to both genders. People need to learn that appreciation and respect for women who choose to feed the babies in public without shame make moms less restricted in movements and it may also reduce postpartum depression, too, by reducing the isolation of the mother. Remember, happy mothers lactate better,” says Singh.

Also Read: Neha Dhupia on criminalisation of clicking pictures of breastfeeding mothers: This is such a big win


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