Recently, the untoward attitude of a Kolkata mall towards a breastfeeding mother stirred protests from all corners. The mother was not only denied a place to nurse her infant in the mall premises, moreover, she was also shamed for trying to do so in public view. The mall authorities failed to justify their actions as their primitive mindset and the lack of a nursing room inside the mall was pointed out and criticised by almost everyone. Amidst the nationwide controversy, an all-women start-up from Kerala went ahead to set a bold and much-needed example. ‘I Love 9 Months’, an all-women maternity foundation has set up India’s first lactation pod at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The pod is dedicated to working mothers and will help them to pump breastmilk in privacy and also store it securely in a refrigerator. It will also let new mothers nurse their infants in office premises, away from the prying and judgemental eyes.
The lactation pod called ‘Domatio’ was inaugurated on December 4, 2018, by Saji Gopinath, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission along with Tina James, President of e-Wit Technologies.
No more premature weaning for infants
Talking to Efforts For Good, founder Ganga Raj said, “The size of the pod is 8’ by 14’. It is a private space for working mothers to pump breast milk comfortably, and label and store it in a clean refrigerator. At the end of the day, they can take the milk home for the baby.”
The whole concept is aimed to enable babies to avail mother’s milk even after the mother rejoins her work post maternity leave.
WHO recommends exclusively mother’s milk for a baby up to six months, beyond which breastfeeding should be interspersed with nutritious solid food.
“We often find women weaning out their babies the moment they come back to the office,” reveals Ganga. She feels career obligations should not come in the way of a baby to have breast milk as long as possible.
Breastfeeding is a big problem for all working mothers
However, there has not been any concrete solution for this crisis. Many women have to rush back home more than once on workdays to nurse the baby in time. For offices which allow new mothers to bring along their infants, there is rarely a secure and private space for these women to breastfeed. Most of the times they end up looking for a desolate cabin, cubicle or even a corner to perform their motherly duty. A similar problem is faced by the women who want to pump and store breast milk in office hours. Firstly, there is a lack of private space. Pumping milk in the restroom is the only resort for many, while storage is another big hassle. “They have to store the pumped milk along with all other eatables in the common office refrigerator, which is hardly hygienic,” expresses Ganga.
About the lactation pod
A similar system has been popularised some time back in the USA. Named Mamava, these lactation pods have benefitted working mothers immensely. “But this is the first time we are replicating this model in India,” asserts Ganga.
The state-of-the-art lactation pod by I Love 9 Months is provided with a breast pump motor, so the mothers only need to bring their personal accessories. The fridge keeps the milk safe, hygienic and undisturbed for hours. “There is also a charging point in the pod, so the woman can continue working while pumping milk,” she informs. The free-of-cost facility will cater to hundreds of new mothers working in Techno Park in Thiruvananthapuram. The foundation is already in talks with Kochi Metro Rail and other government authorities to launch lactation pods in all the stations and other public places as well.
‘Birth Companion’ service by I Love 9 Months
In September, I Love 9 Months had launched a service called ‘birth companion’ where mothers can get all sorts of guidance, support and advice from trained maternity wellness experts. “Be it any query about motherhood or the baby’s health and also emotional support – everything will be provided to the women in the premises of their workplaces,” shares Ganga. In fact, the birth companions also provide relaxing massages to the exhausted mothers who balance work and motherhood with equal perfection.
About I Love 9 Months
I Love 9 Months, an all-women start-up incubated under the Kerala Startup Mission, works in the maternity wellness space. They aim to guide the modern woman through the A to Z of pregnancy. “The I Love 9 Months mobile app is a woman’s companion from pre-pregnancy to post-pregnancy days. We also brought in birth companion service, initially as a home care service but now we have expanded to the workspace as well,” Ganga informs.
At a time when breastfeeding in public spaces still continues to be a taboo and dubbed as obscene by many, very few can imagine the trouble a working mother has to undergo due to all this. Efforts For Good applauds this proactive initiative by this women entrepreneur group and wishes people across the country replicate this example.