Breastfeeding women of the world unite: Global breastfeeding event to take place Saturday

For a minute Saturday morning, local mothers will stand up to stigma while sharing some quality time with their children — and one another.

At the 2018 Big Latch On event at Soldotna Creek Park, mothers will breastfeed together and be counted as part of a global effort to promote breastfeeding, raise awareness about resources for families and encourage community support for mothers.

Started in 2005 by the Women’s Health Action — a New Zealand organization that promotes women’s health — the event has spread to two dozen countries and brought thousands of women and babies together. In 2017, the group reported events in 725 locations in 23 countries — with nearly 18,000 breastfeeding children and about 54,000 total participants, according to the group’s website.

Local event organizer and board member of newly established nonprofit Kenai Peninsula Birth, Samantha Van Vleet has seen the event grow since 2011 — when about 20 people turned up for an informal gathering. Last year, about 100 people participated. Van Vleet is hoping for a higher turnout this year.

“I think it’s going to be a lot bigger. We’ve already gotten about 80 RSVPs,” she said.

Van Vleet has had both good and bad experiences breastfeeding in public.

“I’ve had an old lady pitch my arm and tell me, ‘Good for you, honey,’” she said.

Other times she’s received “creepy” looks or been barred altogether. A mother of four who had her first child in high school, Van Vleet was initially prohibited from breastfeeding in class. With a lawyer’s help, however, she was able to quickly resolve the issue, she said.

Under Alaska law, municipalities can’t prohibit or restrict a woman from breastfeeding in a public or private location where the woman and child are otherwise allowed to be.

Brittany Berger, an apprentice midwife at Juniper Tree Midwifery, also had to wrestle with discomfort — even from family members — when she first began nursing. She was even personally squeamish about breastfeeding at first.

“I had times when I had to hang baby blankets up in my house to be able to do it,” she said. With her fourth child, however, “I just kind of broke free and nursed whenever I wanted,” she said.

Berger is now a strong advocate of breastfeeding, and has participated at Big Latch On four times — twice as a breastfeeding mother and twice as a host.

Kenai resident Bridget Wimberly, a mother of three with a fourth baby on the way, has had her share of dirty looks and complaints when breastfeeding.

“My first encounter was with my first child and it was at the bookstore coffee shop, and I remember being so ashamed. I don’t want people to feel that way,” she said.

Although Wimberly hasn’t attended a local Latch On event, she has been involved in local breastfeeding support organizations, and provides breast milk to other women who have difficulties producing their own breast milk through a milk-sharing program.

She is also working to raise awareness about the importance of nursing beyond the first few months of a child’s life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Foods can be gradually introduced to the child after six months, with breastfeeding continuing after one year if both mother and child desire, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The World Health Organization goes further — recommending that a child is breastfed along with supplemental nutrition until he or she is 2 years old.

“I’m more confident in nursing and nursing toddlers, but I know there are a lot of new moms who aren’t so confident and don’t have a good support network,” she said. “I’m always willing to talk to somebody, and pass along information that I can.”

As someone who provides peer support, Van Vleet emphasized the importance of talking about birthing issues to help women feel better about their decisions — whether it’s choosing to use formula or choosing to breastfeed.

“One of the thing that I constantly see is that woman feel unsupported in choices,” she said.

Although the Latch On event provides a space for women to embrace breastfeeding, it’s not exclusively for those breastfeeding.

“What I love about it is that it’s not just for nursing moms. Anyone who is going to support nursing moms is welcome at this event.”

The 2018 Big Latch On event will take place at the Soldotna Creek Park on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be accompanied by a carnival, including food, games, prizes, face painting and a petting zoo.

Reach Erin Thompson at ethompson@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

From right, Soldotna City Council members Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Dan Nelson and Jordan Chilson listen to testimony during a council meeting on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Council to mull limits on use of Soldotna ADUs as short-term rentals

Accessory dwelling units refer to subordinate, detached units

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Wildlife Troopers and CES rescue hunter missing for 12 hours

State troopers were notified around 6 p.m. Wednesday that the hunter hadn’t returned

The Alaska State Capitol awaits a legislators forming new majority coalitions and the return of Gov. Mike Dunleavy after the winners of the general election were announced Wednesday. The Senate will have a 17-member bipartisan ruling coalition, while the House arrangement remains uncertain due to at least one likely recount and questions about partisan alignments. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Bipartisan majority formed for new state Senate

Eight Republicans join nine Democrats after many years of Republican rule

Dr. Michael Reyes manipulates ROSA during a demonstration at Central Peninsula Hospital on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Knee surgeries get assist from robot arms

Robotic Surgical Assistant, called ROSA, is a new addition to CPH and the first in Alaska

During a hearing at the Juneau Courthouse, 34-year-old Anthony Michael Migliaccio pleaded not guilty after he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in the killing of a 55-year-old Juneau woman. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Man arrested in Juneau killing pleads not guilty

News follows a two-month investigation.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank presents during a budget work session on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai tries again to fill city manager position

After 1st round of negotiations fall through, Kenai to pursue Eubank for role

Soldotna Montessori Charter School kindergartners parade with balloons around the school playground on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Balloons on parade

Montessori kids put spin on traditional Macy’s parade

Most Read