By SARA ARTHURS
Breast-feeding mothers in northwestern Ohio and around the world will gather for the Big Latch On on Saturday, an effort to raise awareness of breast-feeding and to set a record for the most women simultaneously breast-feeding.
Findlay’s participation will take place at the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library.
Madelynn Whitman, a leader of La Leche League of Hancock County, an organization to support and educate breast-feeding mothers, said the purpose of the Big Latch On is to “be more public” about breast-feeding and “just to normalize breast-feeding.” Whitman is co-organizing the event with another local mother, Tiffany Gibson.
The Big Latch On originated in New Zealand and was started by Women’s Health Action in 2005 as part of World Breast-feeding Week.
In 2010 it came to Portland, Oregon, and the following year spread throughout the United States.
The event’s mission is to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding women” according to the Big Latch On website.
This is the first year the Big Latch On will be held in Hancock County. Gibson said she has been breast-feeding her children for the past four years and had been interested in participating in a Big Latch On but didn’t want to drive to Columbus or Cleveland to do so. She finally decided to create a Findlay event.
The Guinness world record for women breast-feeding simultaneously for one location is 3,738 mothers and for multiple locations is 15,128 across 295 sites, according to the Big Latch On website.
Whitman said she has seen comments online that are “very ignorant” about breast-feeding. She said people don’t realize that what is “very natural to do as a mother, is to breast-feed.”
Now nursing her second child, Whitman said she was more nervous about breast-feeding her first.
“I really don’t get any nasty looks,” she said.
She always tries to be discreet and said most people may not even know she is breast-feeding. However, she said she’s opposed to being asked to find a bathroom or wear a cover, especially in July heat.
Whitman said people who are judgmental are generally those who don’t have much experience with breast-feeding.
“It’s actually just a beautiful thing that we want to normalize,” she said.
Gibson is the mother of Nicholas, almost 4, and Makynzie, 1. She didn’t plan to breast-feed when first pregnant with Nicholas. But the more she learned, the more she became convinced that breast milk would be better for her baby than formula.
According to a fact sheet provided by Blanchard Valley Hospital registered nurse and certified lactation consultant Tricia Rayl, benefits of breast-feeding for the baby include a lower risk of adult obesity, lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of osteoporosis, improved lung function and a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Benefits for the mother include lower blood pressure, less stress, reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis, reduced risk of metabolic syndrome and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Gibson said she has only breast-fed in public a few times, and has gotten some looks. But in other countries it is considered normal to breast-feed a child to age 3 or 4, while in the United States breasts are seen as sexual, she said.
Whitman said she had a hard time breast-feeding at first. Now, as a La Leche League leader, she offers support to other mothers who may have trouble.
La Leche League of Hancock County has a closed Facebook group in which only members can see the posts, allowing women to ask personal questions about breast-feeding. A mother who posts something online at 1 a.m. might have a response by 2 a.m., she said. More than 100 mothers are members of the group.
There are also face-to-face meetings. Whitman said friendships have formed through La Leche League’s breast-feeding support group. There are mothers who met there who now have play dates with their young children, she said.
Gibson plans to become a lactation consultant, a profession in which she would help other women who might have problems breast-feeding.
“I’m just very passionate about it,” she said.
Gibson said often hospitals are quick to push formula and “it ends up where women are just not breast-feeding. They don’t have confidence in themselves.”
She said there are misconceptions, such as one woman she knew of who was told because she had had blood loss after giving birth she couldn’t breast-feed. Gibson herself experienced postpartum hemorrhage “and I breast-fed just fine,” she said.
Gibson, almost 23, said mothers her age seem less likely to breast-feed than friends of hers who are slightly older.
She encouraged mothers to do their research. Formula is OK as a “last resort,” she said. Both she and Whitman said another possibility is for nursing mothers to donate breast milk for mothers who want to breast-feed but are unable to do so for whatever reason. Whitman has donated breast milk herself.
Whitman stressed that, although she encourages and promotes breast-feeding, “we support all moms.” She said she thinks mothers should do what is best for their children and it’s up to the individual but “breast-feeding works for me.”
Gibson said she doesn’t know how many mothers to expect at the Big Latch On but the event’s Facebook page has already gotten more than 60 “likes.”
The event will start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the library’s Lindamood Room. Gibson said mothers and children are encouraged to arrive at 9:45 a.m. to settle in. Snacks will be provided for children.
Mothers will need to register when they arrive but do not need to register in advance.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs
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