In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 to 7, Jacky Souders is encouraging nursing mothers to participate in the United States' first synchronized Big Latch On event Aug. 6. Hosted locally by the Cartersville resident, the La Leche League-sponsored offering will be held at The Evelyn Ashley Boutique, 1003 N. Tennessee St., where mothers will breastfeed their infants for one minute at 10:30 a.m.
"I'm really gung-ho about [breastfeeding] and I'm actually still nursing my 19-month-old right now," said Souders, who has been blogging at www.mummiesnummies.com about her breastfeeding experience for more than a year. "I'm really pro-breastfeeding. I think it's super important, and I think support is one of the major keys to continue to breastfeed. So I started my blog to kind of chronicle all the problems I had, the ideas that I had, the tips that I had.
"So when I heard about this event -- I hadn't come across any breastfeeding events in the area before and I don't know any other nursing moms -- I thought it would be a really great chance to get to know other nursing moms, get the word out because there's been a lot of negativity about breastfeeding lately. I thought it would be just really, really great to have this positive experience with local moms."
The Big Latch On was created in 2005 by the Women's Health Action as one component of World Breastfeeding Week, with its first event being organized in New Zealand. Several international offerings have been coordinated since, with an event in October involving 9,826 nursing mothers at 325 locations in 16 countries. More information can be obtained on this year's Bartow County event, by visiting the Facebook page, titled "The Big Latch On in Cartersville."
According to the World Health Organization's website, www.who.int/, "World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policymakers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is 6 months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to 2 years or beyond."
In addition to WHO, the Georgia Department of Public Health also promotes breastfeeding as the "preferred method of infant feeding for the first year," according to the department's website, www.health.state.ga.us. Among other goals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strives to increase the number of mothers who nurse their babies in the postpartum period, through 5 to 6 months old and until they celebrate their first birthday to 75 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Other objectives include decreasing formula supplementation within a baby's first two days and increasing the number of employers who offer worksite lactation programs.
As a breastfeeding peer counselor for the Bartow County Health Department, Amanda Griffin provides a support system for nursing WIC mothers. Along with leading breastfeeding classes, she also is accessible by phone to provide guidance to the recipients enrolled in WIC, a federally funded program that provides free healthy food, nutrition and health education, and other offerings to qualified Georgia families.
"A lot of them don't have support from their spouse or family," Griffin said. "A lot of them don't know the importance of what nursing a child can do. It's just so much better for them. So we are basically there to tell these women who have the slightest bit of interest why it's good, and even the mothers who are straightforward [and say], 'No, we're not going to do that,' we do try to at least touch base with them as well just to tell them how important it is.
"We're basically there to support them. We don't keep office hours. We've been provided with a phone, so they can call us if they're trying to nurse their child and their child's not latching on and the baby's screaming and the mother's getting upset. They can call us at 8 or 9 o'clock at night. The whole purpose is to build up a good relationship, where, if at 3 o'clock in the morning the baby's going to eat and they're having a hard time, they can call us."
Griffin advises women start breastfeeding as soon as possible after the baby's delivered, and nurse exclusively up to the next six months. Agreeing with the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation, she also suggests mothers start introducing solid foods in addition to breastfeeding between six months and a year, and continue nursing for longer if mutually desired by the child and parent.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, some of the benefits to the baby's health include fewer severe allergies and respiratory illnesses, less risk of lymphoma and protection against sudden infant death syndrome.
Citing embarrassment of breastfeeding in public and being afraid the process will hurt, Griffin said there are several concerns she addresses commonly with expectant mothers.
"[I would like] for more people to know how important it is. The biggest thing is people are affected by their peers and people they don't know," Griffin said. "I know when I was nursing my kids -- being out in public and they're hungry, you have to stop and feed them. As an adult, we don't take our food and eat in the bathroom. We don't go into a public restroom with our fast food and sit down on the toilet and eat our food, so why should we have to nurse our babies in a bathroom stall?
"So ... that's one piece of advice that I'd like to give people. Never, never nurse your kids in the bathroom. Find a dressing room. [It is important that] more people [realize] it is a natural thing. ... It's what we are for. People all over the world do it, and people just need to realize that it's much better and safer for your baby than formula and a lot cheaper."