Monday, July 21, 2014

Breastfeeding in Bangalore

I had this lovely post reviewing feeding rooms in Bangalore. However, Blogger decided to eat it up. Shattered, I am attempting to rewrite it but I doubt it will ever be as good as the original one. But then again, it's a review of feeding rooms, how good does it need to be? We shall see.

The existence of feeding rooms is not something I ever thought about. I figured they must exist because I've come across a few at airports and malls.
The euphemistic symbol of a woman changing a baby signals that there is a room nearby that affords some measure of privacy such that a baby's diaper may be changed. Conveniently, there's a chair in said room presumably, to recover from diaper-tastic shock. Alternatively, a mother may use this chair to feed her baby.
Not in image: Chair
I wasn't sure if these rooms existed in Bangalore but since E was born in March, I've been pleasantly surprised to find them at the following places:
  1. Phoenix Marketcity, Whitefield
  2. Forum Mall, Koramangala
  3. Joy Alukkas, MG Road
  4. Motherhood Hospital, CMH Road
  5. Sakra World Hospital, Outer Ring Road
  6. There may be others but I get, like, one outing a month (hospitals don't count).
Phoenix Marketcity, Whitefield

Located on each floor in-between the toilets for men and women, the "feeding zone" here is a small room with pink walls covered in flyers advertising motherhood and a certain maternity hospital affiliated with big healthcare thereby providing one with reading material to combat feeding-induced boredom. Unfortunately, the room isn't air conditioned so maybe you shouldn't get distracted by reading and concentrate on feeding your baby before everyone is sweating.

Expect intruders who are hopefully looking for the bathroom as the room cannot be locked from the inside. Fortunately, intrusions may be prevented by either pulling the armchair such that it rests against the door (good luck trying to do that with a baby in one hand) or asking a companion to stand guard. Alternatively, use a nursing cover

The armchair is quite comfortable, made of black leather it may be false leather I can never tell, and provides good support for your back and arms. The room also features a small wooden ledge, which may be used to change baby's diaper or hold any extra bags you may have.

Be warned, the room is quite small and can barely fit a stroller. It can also get quite smelly as the room doubles as "diaper changing area".

The Feeding Room at Phoenix Marketcity.


Forum Mall, Koramangala

I avoid going to Forum because I don't like this mall. I think it's poorly designed, overcrowded, and honestly, a little smelly. But their feeding room is better than the one at Phoenix in one crucial way - entry is restricted by a pleasant lady in a lab coat.

While this doesn't change my opinion of the mall, it's probably nice to have someone watch the bags or generally stand guard if you're shopping unaccompanied. Other than this, the room is actually worse - awash in fluorescent lighting, two uncomfortable chairs and a stretcher (!) that (I'm guessing) doubles as a changing station.  

Also managed by a maternity hospital, it clearly has a very clinical approach to breastfeeding. A sort of, There! We've provided you with a nursing room in this mall. Now be grateful. 

Joy Alukkas, MG Road

This UAE-based jewellery store has a feeding room and a prayer room on the top floor. Bizarrely, the feeding room is located inside the prayer room; only separated by those saloon café swinging doors you see in cowboy flicks (so it's not even enclosed, just separated). In keeping with the spirit of the room, I spent my ten minutes in there praying no one enters ba-dum-tss.

Actually, I'm not even sure it's supposed to be a feeding room. Apart from a sign outside that said it was - the room only had two highly uncomfortable chairs. No electrical outlet or table. If I were a regular buyer of jewellery, I'd feel sad.


Imagine how large this creche would have to be at Joy Alukkas!
Motherhood Hospital, CMH Road

Located on the ground floor of the new building, this room also features a few comfortable chairs and one armchair. It's not always free so expect to have company while nursing - it's interesting making friends with another woman when you both have babies attached to your respective nipples. 

The great thing about a feeding room in a maternity hospital is that there are plenty of nurses to help if you're facing any trouble. When we brought E in for her 48-hour checkup, my milk hadn't come in yet, and E was a hungry mess. Her screaming attracted the attention of a friendly mustachioed female nurse. She got E to calm down and latch on. By which I mean, she physically yanked my boob and nipple into E's mouth. Don't feel bad - I've forgotten what shame feels like since I delivered. 

Sakra World Hopsital, Outer Ring Road

This hospital is the perfect example of how bad an idea it is to have the super-disciplined Japanese working with inscrutable Indians. Conceptually, it's easy to see that a lot of thought has gone into making the hospital work efficiently except these ideas are executed by the most incompetent support staff I have EVER come across.

What does this have to do with the feeding room here? Nothing. I needed to vent. Back to business.

Situated in the Women and Child Care section on the first floor, the feeding room here is a small, dimly lit hooray room with a cushioned bench for seating and touchingly, a low table to rest your legs. It's the first room I have come across that makes this important concession for the nursing mother. There's also a small curtain that may be drawn to signal occupancy should someone come barging in (the bench faces the door). 

My Dream Feeding Room

At best, these feeding rooms are poorly designed and barely thought out. 

Mothers are important consumers. If a mother is kept happy, she won't mind spending a few extra hours at a mall meaning more revenue for the mall. Given that our paediatricians recommend at least six months of exclusive breast or formula feeding, it makes sense to equip feeding rooms with basic amenities like a table fan, sink, electric outlet, and hot and cold water dispenser. 

This logic is applied almost everywhere in Singapore, even the zoo and ResortsWorld. Takashimaya, a fairly decent, if old mall near Orchard Road has a gorgeous feeding room with the amenities mentioned above. More importantly, there is a separate area for diaper changing of several babies at the same time! I've actually been in a feeding room after someone changed their baby in there and OMG it was like a rat had died in there a month ago.

Feeding Room at Takashimaya, Singapore

I was going to end with something like, 'at least we have feeding rooms here'. But then I realised that these rooms are "managed" by maternity hospitals. Did they not think to ask a mother on pointers to make this room better? 

Why can't we have nice things in India?

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