Nursing mothers always had it difficult to feed their babies in public, especially when they are travelling. Coming to terms with their plight is BMTC, which has urged the Centre for funds to build dedicated breastfeeding rooms for women. These lounges will be located at major bus stations in the city. The lounges will have waiting rooms, toilets and drinking water facilities.
BMTC officials have sought Rs 2.25 crore from the Centre under Nirbhaya fund to set up the lounges. Speaking to the TOI, a senior BMTC official said, "A dedicated room will ensure privacy for mothers breastfeeding their newborns. It will also benefit women staffers especially conductors. We have adequate space in traffic and transit management centres to set up the lounges by the end of this year."
This initiative was first taken by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in 2015 when she established 40 such rooms in major transit spots across Chennai alone. Welcoming the initiative in Bangalore are activists who said, "Many women passengers wait at terminuses for long hours, but there are no facilities at most places to help mothers breastfeed comfortably."
Given the benefits breastfeeding rooms, these, however should not be restricted to just bus stops. Government offices, private offices, railway stations and major tourist transit spots should also have them. According to UNICEF, breastfeeding can save around 1.8 lakh children aged under 5 from diarrhoea and pneumonia in India every year. Health experts too recommend breastfeeding for two years along with appropriate complimentary feeding six months after birth.
The irony is, there are more dedicated smoke rooms and smoking areas than lactation rooms in restaurants and public spaces. These are specifically required for middle-class women who travel by metro and public transport giving them little or no access to breastfeeding their babies.
Interestingly, the breastfeeding rooms in the bus stops could also serve as resting places for mothers who are travelling long diatnaces, apart from female bus conductors. They, however, need to be maintained for hygiene and cleanliness so that mothers are given a hygienic environment for nurturing their babies.