African women from time immemorial walked about bare-chested. The winds of colonisation saw society ‘mystifying’ women’s breasts making it a taboo for women to walk around without covering their upper part of their bodies.
With modernisation having infiltrated almost every corner of the continent, arguably Africans have changed their lifestyles although some women parade barechested during traditional events such as the Reed Dance in Swaziland. In Tanzania, walking bare-chested for a woman is not only suicidal but is considered uncouth.
Besides society frowning upon it, men, with loose morals end up ogling. With this attitude some young mothers find it difficult to breastfeed in public. They try everything in their book of tricks to make sure that their crying babies keep quite without them drawing out their breasts in public.
This has been a nightmare for them as they face a backlash from the public who will hail obscenities as to why the mother is not breastfeeding her child. To mitigate this nightmare, a Dar es Salaam-based woman, Laura Lyabandi 34, designed a nursing scarf, to preserve a mother’s decency while breastfeeding. “Its main purpose is to cover the breastfeeding baby and mother in public.
Currently breastfeeding mothers either separate themselves from the crowd or move outside for privacy Mothers who are not shy breastfeed anywhere,” said the soft-spoken Laura who is a project manager with Simba Logistics Equipment Supply. According to her, the cover goes a long way in helping the mothers to breastfeed comfortably in front of people.
For example when one wants to breastfeed they put it on and place the baby under it as to hide their breasts and the baby. “Many women are not comfortable. Let’s take for example women using public transport, they usually try to avoid breastfeeding, so in so doing, denying their babies nutrition,” she said.
She said that it’s not only mothers who are uncomfortable while breastfeeding but other people around her particularly men, especially when a baby teases the mother’s breast.
“Times are changing, women are becoming shy of breast feeding in public and some of them go to the extent of pumping their own breast milk into a bottle and then feed the baby in public, all in the name of trying not to expose their breasts,” she added.