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Group highlights breast-feeding benefits at 'Big Latch On'

Published: Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 2:02 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011 11:11 p.m. CDT
(Nicole Weskerna – nweskerna@daily-chronicle.com)
Women participating in Saturday’s “Big Latch On” at Hopkins Park in DeKalb raise their hands to be counted. Eight women participated in the breast-feeding event to kick off World Breastfeeding Week, and each breast-fed their children for one minute in hopes of helping break the record for the largest number of women breast-feeding simultaneously.

DeKALB – Rachel Bergeon of Sycamore doesn’t think breast-feeding should be considered taboo.

She was one of eight women who participated in the “Big Latch On” Saturday at Hopkins Park in DeKalb. To help break the record of mothers simultaneously nursing their babies, local mothers contributed to the worldwide effort by nursing their babies for one minute at 10:30 a.m.

The effort was part of World Breastfeeding Week, and aiming to raise awareness about the benefits of breast-feeding children.

“This sheds a good light on breast-feeding,” Bergeon said after participating in the event with her 13-month-old, Mason. “Don’t feel ashamed to breast-feed in public.”

Aside from trying to break a world record, local mothers hoped the event would help mothers feel more confident when it comes to breast-feeding, especially in public.

“It’s mostly to promote breast-feeding. To normalize it,” said Suzi Leigh, a certified lactation counselor who helped organize Saturday’s event. “It’s kind of taboo right now. Breasts are still very sexualized.”

For the one minute required to break the record, Vanessa Stout of Somonauk breast-fed her 2-year-old son, Rylan, while sitting at a picnic table near the park’s playground.

She said the support she got from other mothers in local organizations called La Leche League and Crunchy Moms of DeKalb helped her feel more comfortable with what’s sometimes considered taboo.

She said it’s important not only to breast-feed, but to show her children that it’s OK to exercise their rights.

“For one, it’s our right [to breast-feed],” Stout said. “We fought for [our rights]. It’s important to use them or else what’s the point?”

According to the Big Latch On website, the record of mothers simultaneously nursing their babies stands at 15,128 women breast-feeding simultaneously in 295 sites across the Philippines in 2007. Last year, almost 10,000 nursing mothers participated in the event in 16 countries.

As of Sunday, the provisional total number of participants this year reached 4,123, who participated across the globe in 294 locations.

Leigh stressed that the Big Latch On was a family event, which is one of the reasons it was held at the park. She hoped seeing the event would help more mothers feel comfortable about breast-feeding in public and also let them see the wide-range of ages of children nursing. Alicia Lisafeld of Sycamore agreed.

“We’re not trying to offend people. We’re just trying to feed our babies,” she said after participating in the Big Latch On with her 19-month-old daughter, Jordan. “The more it’s out in public, the more people accept it.”

Breast-feeding offers both mothers and babies numerous benefits, Leigh said. The longer women breast-feed their children, the more health benefits they get, from reducing a mother’s risk of ovarian cancer to building up a baby’s immune system, she said.

After a year of breast-feeding, a mother’s risk of ovarian cancer decreases every month, and her risk of getting breast cancer is also lowered, Leigh said. Mothers naturally produce antibodies in breast milk that helps a baby’s immune and respiratory system, too.

Not only are there physical health benefits, breast-feeding gives mothers time to bond with their children, Leigh added. For Bergeon, that’s one of the biggest advantages to breast-feeding.

“My body makes exactly what he needs,” she said. “The bond it creates is the greatest thing in the world.”

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