Thursday, August, 23-29, 2007
In the chest of a woman
Since the time of Eve, the two soft fleshy milk-secreting organs on the chest of a woman have represented nourishment as well as tenderness and compassion.
If this is so, why then do some mothers refuse to nourish and as well, show compassion to their babies in public? ‘Tis true to some extent that nursing a baby in public is often a big worry for first time mothers.
My personal philosophy however is that all mothers should make it a point not to deprive their babies of breast milk, irrespective of where they find themselves in public.
I was at a bank in the afternoon of yesterday to transact one or two businesses in respective of the few Ghana Cedis left in my account. Date was 22nd August, 2007, and that implied that the accounts of some employees had been credited with their salaries already. How nice! Perhaps, that explained why the banking hall had quite a number of clients in there.
After having been directed to see the Relationship Manager, I was made to take a seat at the banking hall while some documents I had requested for were prepared for me... Ei, indeed, we all have to be grateful for the buoyant and healthy competition currently existing in the banking sector. Whaaaat, the services of certain banks in Ghana have improved tremendously!
As I sat there waiting, I made a few observations of this same bank which used to enjoy a seeming monopoly in this country; this bank which could hold clients to ransom for hours on end before attending to them; where very long and winding queues extending several miles outside the banking hall was a common phenomenon; where cashiers and other members of staff behaved as though they doing their clients, whose monies the banks used to create wealth, a big favour rather than a service.
I noticed yesterday that young vibrant qualified staff had replaced most of the elderly personnel. Another observation was that almost 97% of the employees wore a smile towards all who had come to seek a service of some sort. What even surprised me was the fact that I was offered a cup of tea and four small biscuits as soon as I took my seat in the office of the Relationship Manager. Oh, competition is good indeed!
So, as I was saying, I was made to sit on one of the comfortable seats, which had now replaced the once hard wooden benches in that banking hall. It didn’t take too long before a lady whom I saw emerging from one of the offices within the building, walked towards me to take her seat too.
Very young, probably in her mid-twenties, she had a baby strapped in a Kangaroo Baby Carrier before her. Courteously uttering “good morning” to me, the mother of this three-month old looking baby sat next to me. Her baby was soundly sleeping then. However, barely three minutes into getting seated, this baby girl decided to wake up. Then she started making amusingly demanding noises.
The young mother, unfastening her from her shoulders, perhaps to allow more comfort to both parties, placed the baby’s head in the crook of her arms, and began to rock her. Huh, the more she rocked the little one, the more noise she made. Confused, the mother brought out a small soft plastic apple toy for her baby to play with. No success there.
At this point, the baby began to cry. People’s attention now seemed to be on the two. Most people were just staring at the helpless young mother, wondering what she was doing at the banking hall with a baby. “Shhhh…shhhh…. Princess, behave yourself”, said the mother to the baby as she tried to rock her to comfort. But would this little one who had ribbons all over hair budge?
Then this lady, bringing out a small cupped container from the side of her ‘Kangaroo’ flipped it open, brought out a dummy (pacifier), and stuck it in the mouth of Princess. Obviously, what the baby needed was more than just a piece of latex material, molded in the fashion of a nipple. She pushed it out of her mouth. The lady looked more frustrated – her face had turned red with anger and confusion.
Not wanting this young woman to feel embarrassed, I was practicing selective inattention: once a while, I would steal a glance at them, and then pretended I wasn’t looking. I noticed one thing as I did so: Princess was aggressively rubbing her dainty lips on her mother’s right breast, an act which had caused the nipples, which had lifted themselves to the young mother’s chest, to spew forth spots of milk out of those mammary glands.
Her mother’s fitting blouse which had no opening at the front began to get wet. It needed no telling that this baby needed nothing but what lawfully belonged to her – breast milk. Princess’ noise-making skills had matured into hysterical cries – cries for her portion of warm fresh ration of carbohydrates, protein, fat, antibodies and comfort. There were still no signs of this mother bringing out her breast to satisfy the baby’s need.
At this point, my intervening abilities had taken a better part of me. Tapping the woman on her right thigh I said, “Excuse me… I think you should breastfeed your baby”. With a confused look the young mother said hurriedly to me, “that is what I want to do… but there are so many people here and I don’t know how. ‘I’m shy”.
“Shy? Of who?” I asked. “Your baby wants food and you’re saying you’re shy. Bring out the food and let her have her way”, I said jokingly. With a guilt-stricken face, she tried lifting her zip-up-back dress. Her whole stomach began to show. “Eish” I heard her say, everybody will see my stomach.
Then I noticed how low her comfort level was. At least she did not have that kind of moral courage like that of my cousin Atwei who is able to bring out her breasts fully even in trotro to feed her son Amanor.
“Do you have a shawl or cloth with which to cover yourself as the baby feeds? I asked her. Smiling coyly she said, “I didn’t think I’d need a cloth because I had a Kangaroo. I have nothing to cover myself with”.
All this while, Princess was kicking her legs in anger, throwing her tiny arms out as if to box her mother for the delay. “Then go to the car park and feed her there”, I advised. “I don’t own a car, and security men are all over the car park. They’ll see me,” she explained. “Well, then too bad. Your baby seems to be disturbing every one in here so you will have to brave the odds and feed her”, I said under-tone.
Reluctantly lifting her blouse, she released her right breast from her bra, and rested the organ, which had turned turgid with much milk into the mouth of this baby. And there was silence. In a matter of say, five minutes, Princess had fallen off to sleep, slipping her mother’s nipple out of her mouth like an unwanted lollipop.
At that point, my documents were brought in. I advised her to take care of herself and the baby, and left.
Breastfeeding in public matters because hungry babies aren’t very patient, and it’s hard to be a parent without leaving home. Once the early weeks have passed and a mother has resumed activities outside her home, finding a truly private place to breastfeed her baby can be difficult, if not impossible. So mothers, why don’t you just feel free to breastfeed your babies in public?
Graphic Showbiz - Thursday, August, 23-29, 2007 Page: 14