PLATTSBURGH — The entire planet will come together next week for one entire moment dedicated to breastfeeding.
The Big Latch On, a global phenomenon originating from the New Zealand-based Women’s Health Action, will make its first local appearance at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 3, on the front lawn of CVPH Medical Center.
“The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week, and we try to do something here to recognize and celebrate breastfeeding,” said Sue Trombley of the Clinton County Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children Program.
“The Big Latch On is a time we will simultaneously (at 10:30 a.m. local time) think about breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding moms will take that moment to feed their infants collectively, performing the activity on the hospital’s front lawn as much as a symbolic gesture to promote breastfeeding in public as a reminder of the healthy benefits of breastfeeding.
“It’s a normal behavior,” said Sara Allan, a breastfeeding peer advocate for the Health Department. “A lot of moms feel (breastfeeding) is something to hide. But there is no reason for that. It is a natural thing.”
Breastfeeding moms will be asked to register for the event. Then, participants will be counted, and that number will be added to the worldwide total.
“Women’s Health Action is aiming at 10,000 women,” Trombley said, noting that the organization’s goal would represent a doubling of women who participated in 2011 (5,687 total).
Breastfeeding advocates have long promoted the bond breastfeeding creates between mother and child. Organizers from Women’s Health Action believe the Big Latch On is also a way to spread camaraderie among new moms.
“It stresses the need to support one thing: breastfeeding in public places as a normal, natural process,” said Maria Hayes, director of the Women and Infants Center at CVPH Medical Center. “It is very much accepted in Europe but has taken a long time to be accepted here, though it is getting better.”
Breastfeeding is the best option for most babies, she added, providing the baby with a healthier start in life.
“It protects the (baby’s) gut,” said CVPH lactation specialist Janis Layn, noting that a newborn’s stomach has not totally developed and receives beneficial protection from breast milk.
“It prevents obesity,” she added. “You cannot overfeed a breast baby.”
Hayes still cringes when she hears a mom tell her that someone was offended by seeing the mother breastfeeding in a public place and hopes the Big Latch On will help reduce that kind of event.
Kim and Padraic Bean are new parents. Their daughter, Aubrey, was born July 24 and has been breastfeeding ever since.
“I wanted to do breastfeeding because there are so many chemicals and additives in food these days,” Kim said as she held her new baby in her CVPH patient room Thursday afternoon. “(Breastfeeding) is the most natural way to start out, and it’s healthier for her.”
Kim said she did not believe she would breastfeed in public but felt it was every mother’s right to make that decision.
“The mall has the Food Court,” Padraic pointed out. “Everybody else has services; new mothers should have a place where they can go for their infant to get services.”
Kim’s interest in breastfeeding has roots dating back to her own infancy.
“I recommend it highly, if you can do it,” said Kim’s mom, Barbara Crumley, as she came to visit the new family.
The first Big Latch On was held in New Zealand in 2005 and has grown in numbers each year. The event first came to the United States with a celebration in Portland, Ore., in 2010. National leaders of La Leche League adopted the concept in 2011, and Clinton County has come on board this year.
Communities participating can hold the event Friday — so workplaces and health clinics can be involved — or Saturdays to offer working women an easier opportunity to attend.
Either way, the Big Latch On will begin precisely at 10:30 at each location where new moms have gathered.
Other simultaneous breastfeeding events have been held across the globe to promote breastfeeding, including Berkeley, Calif., in 2002 where 1,130 mothers breastfed as one supportive group and the Philippines in 2006 where 3,738 mothers breastfed.
Email Jeff Meyers at: