Every August for the past ten years, thousands of women around the world have gathered together in small, local groups to breastfeed their children at a set time and be counted by witnesses. It’s like a nurse-in, on a global scale, and organizers set their sights on a new record each year. They hope it builds so that, one day, any breastfeeding mother who wants can simply walk to one. The idea behind this public breastfeeding display, The Big Latch On, is to participate in World Breastfeeding Week and grow opportunities in every community to provide ongoing breastfeeding support. For local organizer, Jessica Walsh of Illuminated Baby
, it’s a chance to normalize breastfeeding in our community.
On Friday, July 31st, women lounged around the outdoor patio at Fiber Flame
in Saugerties, babes and toddlers at their breasts, older siblings running around. They enjoyed donated baked goods and coffee from Bread Alone
and scored door prizes from local mompreneurs. When their babies and toddlers latched on to nurse for one minute at exactly 10:30am, they were tallied among the thousands of breastfeeding women all over the world who participated that day. One mom, Erica Bode, had never been to a Big Latch On event before. Now with her third child, she decided this might be her last chance. “I partially went in order to bring my older children, ages five and seven. I wanted to expose them to the event, just so that it would be in their brains, in their life-experiences. I also love breastfeeding my 14-month-old, and have really become comfortable in my breastfeeding skin this time around.“ That sense of ease and security with public breastfeeding isn’t always available to nursing moms, who often face harassment, banishment from public spaces, and unclean or uncomfortable places in which to feed their children. If that’s American society, where breastfeeding is mostly encouraged, imagine how it looks in other parts of the world.
Begun in New Zealand in 2005 as part of World Breastfeeding Week, it was introduced to Portland, Oregon, in 2010, and caught on from there. This year’s theme was breastfeeding and work, and public statements and conversations emphasized improving support for family-friendly workplaces with entitlements like parental leave, paid sick days, equality legislation, and the right to breastfeed. As International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder said in a public statement, “Breastfeeding is a cornerstone of children’s survival, health, growth and development. Ensuring adequate maternity protection and time and space for breastfeeding at work is not only the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense. Women who have adequate maternity benefits value their employers, leading to job satisfaction and loyalty.”
This was the 4th year Illuminated Baby and Fiber Flame have teamed up to host The Big Latch On locally. They counted 28 people with 21 latched. Erika Pivko, who talks about her early difficulties with breastfeeding, and the pain and isolation she felt before finally developing a successful breastfeeding relationship with her baby, said, “Participating in The Big Latch On was a way for me to honor and celebrate the last four months of hard work, alongside an international group of women who all faced their own challenges. It was an awesome experience.”
The Big Latch On happens each year around the first Friday and Saturday in August, in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week. Learn how you can be involved next year at their website.