Moving a step further in making its premise women-friendly, the Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) has tied up with a health startup and a private hospital to set up breastfeeding pods for mothers at four stations across its network. This is the first time in the country that any metro train system is providing such facilities for breastfeeding mothers.
On Friday, APM Mohammed Hanish, managing director, KMRL, inaugurated the first of such pods at the Aluva train station, with three more pods expected to be thrown open to the public at the Edappally, MG Road and Lissie stations in the next one month.
“The message that we are trying to send is simple: to create more safe and hygienic spaces for women in our society. This has been done considering how difficult it is for mothers to breastfeed their babies in public. After we launch in the first four stations, we will take feedback and then think about expanding it to other stations across the network,” Hanish told reporters.
The pods, designed by the wellness startup ‘I love 9 months’, are essentially 4 ft x 4 ft compact rooms made out of fibre-reinforced plastic which allows mothers a safe, private space for lactation. The pod comes with comfortable seating arrangements, with adequate lighting, ventilation, fan, hand-sanitiser holder and charging point for cell-phones. Each pod costs Rs 1.5 lakh excluding GST and comes equipped with information about breastfeeding for mothers. They can also connect with the startup’s virtual support team via phone in case of issues or to provide feedback. The pods in the initial phase have been sponsored under the corporate social responsibility initiatives of CIMAR Hospitals.
Ganga Raj, one of the three co-founders of ‘I love 9 months’, said the proposal to set up the pods at KMRL’s premises was ‘readily accepted’ by the latter during talks. Once the sponsor was identified, the process garnered pace, she said, adding that they have the mandate to set up such pods at all the stations across the network.
“The most challenging part for nursing mothers is to feed in a public space. When they’re travelling, it’s all the more difficult. So, this pod is a safe, private space for a mother to breastfeed her baby. Just before boarding, she has the option to breastfeed her baby and then get into the train. We’re trying to make travelling easier for both mother and baby,” she said.
The startup has also had discussions with the Indian Railways to set up breastfeeding pods across major stations from Kanyakumari to Thrissur. A hunt is on to identify a uniform sponsor who could fund these pods on the railway network.
Gokul Gopinath, CEO, CIMAR Hospitals, said, “As an institution that has witnessed close to 1 lakh deliveries, we could not let go the opportunity to promote the cause of breastfeeding.”
‘I love 9 months’, an all-women led startup, incubated at the Kerala Startup Mission, has also designed larger pods known as ‘lactation pods’ for working mothers. The pods come with a mini-fridge where breast milk can be stored along with breast pumps as well. The first of such lactation pods was inaugurated at Technopark, home to dozens of IT companies, in Thiruvananthapuram.