If you find yourself at Esther Short Park on the morning of Saturday, August 4, you may come across an unusually large group of mothers and babies doing what many babies love more than anything: breastfeeding. They will be part of a global celebration of motherhood called The Big Latch On.
The Big Latch On is a community development initiative that promotes breastfeeding awareness and normalizes breastfeeding. The event takes place during World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7. World Breastfeeding Week was launched 22 years ago by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to focus and facilitate actions to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. During the event, breastfeeding moms gather together at registered locations around the world to all “latch on” (breastfeed) at a set time. All the latches are counted and recorded. To be included in the count, a mom may feed her baby by latching a child or children, using a supplemental nursing system or nipple shield, expressing milk (hand or pump), or feeding your child breast milk via an alternative method. Supportive family and friends are encouraged to attend. In 2016, 28 countries participated with 17,992 children latched at the same time. For the past eight years, the Clark County Breastfeeding Coalition has organized and hosted Vancouver’s Big Latch On event at Esther Short Park. Last year, the coalition recorded 28 infants latched.
According to their website, The Big Latch On aims to protect, promote & support breastfeeding families by:
- Providing support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide on-going breastfeeding support and promotion in local communities.
- Raising awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available locally and globally.
- Helping communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.
- Making breastfeeding as normal part of day-to-day life at a local community level.
- Increasing support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and their communities.
- Ensuring communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services.
To help normalize breastfeeding in public and show your support for breastfeeding women in your community!
Why is public breastfeeding important?
Even though breastfeeding is a normal and natural part of life, some women still face criticism for choosing to nurse their baby in public. Events like The Big Latch On help normalize breastfeeding and dismiss the perception that breastfeeding in public is obscene or offensive. Many breastfeeding mothers and family members worry about being confronted while breastfeeding their child in the community. It is important to know that Washington law protects a mother’s right to breastfeed in public places. This includes parks, buses, government buildings, restaurants, stores, libraries, and anywhere a mom has a right to be. It is unlawful for someone to request that you stop breastfeeding, cover your child, move to a different area, or leave.
The Office on Women’s Health is a helpful breastfeeding resource and includes the following tips for breastfeeding moms:
- Wear comfortable clothes that allow for easy access to your breasts. This might include nursing tops or bras.
- If desired, use a cover to prevent unwanted exposure in public. Some moms choose to wear layered tops or infinity scarves. It is helpful to practice using a cover at home so you and your baby are comfortable nursing with a cover in the community.
- Breastfeed your baby in soft carrier. Soft carriers, such as a wrap or sling, help keep your baby happy and close to you. Be aware that infant slings can be a suffocation danger for babies. Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission for warnings before buying a sling.
- Use a women’s lounge or dressing room in stores if you prefer to breastfeed in a private or quiet space.
Tips for handling criticism:
It is not possible to stay home all the time and you should feel free to feed your baby wherever you are. Remember that Washington laws protect your right to feed your baby wherever you are in the community. If someone criticizes you for feeding your baby, do not feel obligated to respond to them. If you feel in danger, move away from the person criticizing you and look for others who can support you.
It might be helpful to talk with other breastfeeding moms about how they have handled criticism in public. While no one should ever criticize you for feeding your baby, it might help to know ahead of time what other moms have done or said in a similar situation.
Click here for more information about Vancouver’s Big Latch On Event.