All women and their children should be free to breastfeed in public, anytime, anywhere. Breastfeeding has amazing health benefits for both mother and child. For toddlers, having breast milk for the initial six months is mandatory because of the nutrition quotient present in the milk. This helps the toddler to build a healthy immune system and live a healthier life. Also, the bond between a mother and the child grows stronger and empowers both to lead a healthy life.
However, not every mother who wants to breastfeed has the support she needs to do so. Breastfeeding in public is looked down upon in public spaces and places of transit.
Baby feeding centres
A step in the right direction is the Western Railway’s first ‘Baby Feeding Centre’ at Palghar Railway station in Maharashtra. Through this initiative, Child Help Foundation, a nation-wide NGO in child care, wants to ensure that nursing mothers who need not worry about breastfeeding their babies while travelling.
Located on platform number One, the feeding centre is well secured and offers privacy to nursing mothers. Commercial activities, connecting train passenger traffic and industrial area chaos around Palghar station encouraged the foundation to set up a ‘Baby Feeding Centre’ at the station.
Jiji John, Executive Director, Child Help Foundation told The CSR Journal, “Our team got feedback from nursing mothers that they avoided train travel due to lack of proper Baby Feeding Centres on the platforms. The project’s team approached the Western Railways authorities since Western Railways has a major share of the 7.5 million of commuters who travel in suburban trains every day, which also included many nursing mothers.”
The railway authorities were highly receptive to the idea. “Now the Eastern Railways also have agreed to go ahead with the project in their stations,” adds John. The Western Railways has approved baby feeding centres at 14 stations which includes Palghar, Boisar, Sanjan, Bhilad, Umbergaon, Sachin, Maroli, Bhestan, Dungari, Bardoli, Amalner, Dharangaon, Navapur and Dondaiche. The Eastern Railways has approved baby feeding centres at Katihar, NJP, Asansol, Durgapur, Madhupur and Jasidih.
Free to Feed
Breastfeeding in public is a struggle the world over, and echoing the sentiment is the ongoing #FreeToFeed campaign, run in certain parts of England. The campaign, with support from local authorities, is encouraging businesses to do their bit to help new mums feel comfortable breastfeeding their children when out and about.
Families gathered outside the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s herd of white rhinos yesterday (Monday) to thank the 100 businesses and venues supporting the campaign and show that moms can breastfeed anywhere. The Zoo is now displaying #FreeToFeed window stickers on each of its entrances, restaurants, and family areas to show their support and clearly indicate to all visitors that breastfeeding is welcome everywhere.