Would making the environments where women feed outside the home more pleasant help in some way to make new mothers feel comfortable with breastfeeding? Although ideally all women should be confident and encouraged to breastfeed in public, sourcing rooms and places available to breastfeed out and about in privacy may go some way to introducing them to breastfeed away from the home.
Anecdotally, although Asian women are more likely to breastfeed, they are more uncomfortable about doing this in public. This is why the private feeding rooms in public buildings are also very important. The privacy creates a freedom to leave the house where many women would feel trapped at home.
For example, Meadowhall has three such rooms. There is a quiet and comfortable room located off a corridor in the food quarter dedicated to feeding, with two sofas and a lock on the door. There are also two feeding rooms in the Mothercare store. One of these doubles as a changing room, with bottle heaters and hand washing facilities. The other has two reclining armchairs and a water fountain. Although both of these rooms are fairly comfortable and private, they look pretty ugly and uninspiring. If these rooms were ‘jazzed up’ a bit, they could act as examples of great breastfeeding spaces, for mothers too scared to come shopping when feeding and also to other organisations catering for a young female clientele.
IKEA is a great example of family friendly facilities. Rather than having a dedicated breastfeeding room the restaurant has a cordoned off section for feeding infants creating a private and fun environment for Mothers and children alike.
Kiddicare, as the name would suggest is a new company specializing in baby and children’s products. It appears to be leading the pack with regards to in-store facilities for nursing mothers.
In a bid to appeal to the more nervous mother/ expectant mother, I have looked at using repeat patterns to soften the impact of giant breasts.
Pattern and branding became important to the design to make the work recognisable when used in multiple places across the city.
I created soft furnishings and wallpaper designed to be suitable for ‘on the road’ displays and potentially for the decoration of feeding rooms in public buildings.
For the modesty screen and the cushions I used the screen-printing technique. A three-colour separation and single colour outline were used of the repeat pattern design. The outline design appears more successful as it abstracts the image of the breast.
Thankfully Mike MacGabbhan in the printmaking dept of SHU was able to help me with the screen-printing process, as I was too heavily pregnant to reach the bed properly!
All the fabric was sewn together my myself and my Mother.
Ideally, these kinds of rooms could be wheeled out across the city, perfect for breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work and either have their baby come in to feed during the day, or who have to express milk in their breaks. Both of which are fairly common practices. By law, breastfeeding mothers need to be given the time and space to continue breastfeeding in the work environment, but most workplaces do not have dedicated space for this. Many women working in schools, colleges and hospitals –large organisations, within the public sector- find themselves in cupboards, toilets and corners expressing in their lunch hour, unable to eat or read in the dark in such places.
As so much of my work is designed to be transported, it seemed right to print some branded boxes to carry the models.
One road I travelled, only to find myself in a cul de sac, was the attempted rebranding of the Sheffield Breastfeeding Friendly Awards. This is a council led initiative, designed to collate a list of premises open to breastfeeding women. These are primarily public sector buildings, including council buildings and libraries and children’s centres. Also included are a large amount of cafes and restaurants.
In an attempt to lure more businesses into joining the scheme, I began designing actual awards for the cafes etc to display. Currently the buildings are given window stickers to entice feeding mothers inside, but I wanted to give them even more of an incentive to join up.
I thought about barbers’ poles, with the stripe snaking down it being blue, like the milk straws of our youth. However, I came up with a more overt, silicone and acrylic breast, with a straw coming out of it, as an object; and a print and web based illustration of this for stickers and 2D signs.
One point worth mentioning here is that Nawal did not think the straw coming out of the nipple was appropriate, as it suggests the baby drinks from the nipple which, although the milk comes out from the nipple, the baby latches on and sucks from much further onto the breast. All subsequent designs will have the straw removed.
This area of work failed for two reasons. Firstly, the imagery was a shade too blatant, too obvious and lacking a bit too much in humour. Secondly, producing the models would be much too costly; the council would not have the funding to produce anything other than the window stickers.