Babies are ‘persons’ too

On a flight to Vancouver recently, my neighbour was a mom travelling with her three kids, the youngest an 11-month old boy. The baby was anything but enjoying the flight. His mom was breastfeeding him under a nursing cover nearly non-stop throughout the four-hour journey. Yet each time he lost the latch, he would screech in anger. The passenger seated one row ahead of her was clearly annoyed and kept asking her to quieten her baby! This happened so often that the already overwhelmed mom had to complain about the fellow passenger to the flight attendant.

Watching this on the sidelines, I realised that the debate is not limited to normalising breastfeeding in public. There is a need to overhaul the way our society and its members think about babies. Instead of viewing them as cute but largely an unavoidable nuisance in public, wouldn’t it be nice if we saw babies as just another valuable part of society? We are tolerant of minorities, people of other cultures or sexual orientation, people with a different fashion sense — more or less modest than our individual value codes may prescribe, and many others who may behave in ways such that they encroach upon our personal space. While in places designated for purposes which children may potentially disrupt, e.g.: business lounges, music studios, hospital wards etc., there is a case for restricting entry for children below a certain age, but these should be exceptions rather than a rule. In general public spaces should not only be open but welcoming to kids. In essence, I’m saying that we as a society and as individuals need to start seeing children, even infants as “persons”, who deserve respect and a warm, welcome wherever they go, runny noses ‘n all included.