How A New Mom’s Struggle Inspired Taj Mahal To Become India’s First Monument With A Breastfeeding Room

Written by , MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Chaitra Krishnan MA (Journalism & Mass Communication) Experience: 5 years

Motherhood is one of the most natural and beautiful things about human beings, or even any living organism. None of us would be here if we didn’t have our mothers to give birth to us, nurse us, and take are of us to grow into the individuals that we are today. While each one of us is eternally thankful to our life-giver for bringing us into the world and showering us with unconditional love, there are many who still cringe at the sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby. This is India, one of the fastest-growing economies in this world and sadly, something as beautiful and vital as breastfeeding is considered to be a taboo when done in public.

You don’t need to be a mother to know that babies need to be fed frequently and if breastfeeding isn’t easy for new mothers, they’ll have to sit at home for months after their baby’s birth because they can’t feed them in public. This is just plain common sense and something that needs to get through the narrow-minded society.

Having said that, Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders in the world, the pride of our nation, is a monument that was built in the memory of Mumtaz Mahal, a woman who died in childbirth. Shajahan’s love for his wife is the reason why the monument is existent today. Sadly, until a couple of months ago, women were finding it too difficult to visit the Taj Mahal with their babies since nursing them in there was more than just a regular challenge. But now, the tables have turned and new mothers have a nursing room built in the historical building to feed their babies without any hassel. Thanks to Vasanth Kumar Swarnkar, a top official at the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) who has proven to be a torchbearer in bring a change in the societal norms.

Image: IStock

Vasanth Kumar is a regular visitor at the monument that symbolizes eternal love. Reportedly, he noticed a woman hiding under a staircase and trying to nurse her baby during one of his visits. The father of the baby was trying to cover the mother to ensure extra cover and this sight made Vasanth Kumar take the initiative to build nursing rooms for mothers in the monument. “I could see it was so difficult for her (to feed her child), which is a basic motherhood right. So, I thought we have to do something,” he told an international news agency. “My hope is that more and more monuments—not only in India, but around the world—replicate this (plan) so that women can feed their babies comfortably,” he added. Vasanth Kumar has also asked two other monuments of historical importance in the country to set up nursing rooms to aid mothers, who visit the place with their babies. According to the ASI, the Taj Mahal will be the first Indian monument to get such a facility set up among the 3600 plus monuments in the country (1).

Not An Isolated Incident

Image: Shutterstock

Shaming women who breastfeed in public isn’t something new in our country. Last year, a woman who was breastfeeding her baby at Kolkata mall was shamed for doing such “chores” at a mall. The issue went on to become viral on social media after the woman posted a complaint on the mall’s official page, resulting in public outrage. The issue gained significant attention globally, that even the international media covered it. This, in turn, made India look like a country filled with uncultured and uncivilized people. The mall apologized to the woman and the public for their actions, while assuring that they would have a nursing room on every floor of the mall (2).

If you are a woman, who has nursed your baby out in the public before, you would know about all the things that you need to endure. From staring at the woman’s breasts to passing filthy comments, the whole experience might end up to be among the most jarring and traumatic emotional experiences you would have ever had. And, it’s not just men who are at fault. Many women in our society feel that breastfeeding their babies in public is a matter of shame, while supporting the majority that believe in shaming those who show the “audacity” to do it. Fearing this, many women restrict their desire to visit places that do not have nursing rooms or in the worst case, choose to stay at home for the most of the time.

Mothers are equated to God and without them, none of us would be here. Pregnancy and labor are hard enough on them, and we as a society should be able to respect and make things easier for them, as much as possible. What do you think about breastfeeding in public? Have you ever had a bad experience while doing so? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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