On Saturday, at least 30 women and their children will be enjoying a late breakfast at Kids Kingdom playground, outside the . But at this picnic there’s only one item on the menu: breast milk.
The La Leche League of Greater Danbury, co-organized by local mothers Chrys Prip and Karin Ali, is organizing the gathering as part of The Big Latch On, an internationally coordinated public breastfeeding event. From 10:30 a.m. to 10:31, mothers from across the globe will be publicly feeding their infants, both in solidarity and in an attempt to break a world record.
The standing record was set in October of last year, with 9,826 mothers simultaneously nursing at 325 locations in 16 countries around the world.
The Big Latch On is an annual event that culminates World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), however this is the first time La Leche of Greater Danbury has participated in the event, and already more than 30 mothers have confirmed that they are coming.
“We’re doing this as a way to support women who choose to breastfeed,” Prip said. The choice between breastfeeding and formula is a personal one, she added, but the support network La Leche offers helps mothers stand up for their decision.
The name, La Leche League, was coined in the 1950s, “when feeding was a taboo topic,” Prip explained. Those stigmas were exactly what the group was created to battle against.
“The No. 1 indicator if a woman will succeed in their nursing is support,” she said.
Along with the usual difficulties associated with breastfeeding — the infant not latching on, insufficient milk production, allergies and dietary issues — social pressures can be just as problematic.
“It’s so stressful to try to get the hang of how to do it and then be told you can’t,” Bethel mom and La Leche member Kathleen Raymond said. “Why would anyone want to go to a bathroom to eat? It’s the same thing. I’d never ask a person to go to the bathroom with a bottle.”
Raymond, whose two-year-old daughter still breastfeeds, stated that she was fortunate in not having to deal with many of the usual problems but it remains “difficult in our culture to get a lot of information.”
Mothers, aunts and other family members acted as the support group and main sources of information in generations past, however in today’s society breastfeeding is “not as culturally prevalent,” Raymond explained.
“Things can change so quickly at this age,” she said, “Just to be around other moms who can say, ‘Yes, that’s normal,’” is a huge benefit.
“Without them [La Leche and specifically Prip and Ali] I don’t think that we would have as healthy kids as we do,” said Jeany Mui of Southbury, whose two children are now six and nine and no longer feed, though the group was invaluable to her when they were younger. “They’re a resource — not medical or professional, but personal.”
The La Leche mothers “taught me how to understand my body,” she said, “Just relaxing and accepting what Mother Nature gives you, letting the baby and your body do what comes naturally. This is how we all started: natural, from the body.”
Elena Nielsen of Brookfield said she had issues when starting to breastfeed her son Alex, now nine months, but with the support of La Leche “he’s the biggest kid in town, now.”
Despite early problems, “I wanted to do everything I could to give him that good start,” Nielsen said, touting the health benefits of mother’s milk over formula.
“My pediatrician and my doctors were adamant that breast milk was better,” she said, added to the fact that Alex was born with a sensitivity to soy, making it hard for him to digest formula. Nielsen was able to change her diet — eliminating soy and dairy — and subsequently produce milk that her son was able to consume without the agony afterward, for both mother and child.
“When the baby’s unhappy, everyone’s unhappy,” she said, also noting that newborns have to eat every two hours and having a ready supply of food available is key. “It’s a little bit easier — I don’t have to make a bottle, I don’t have to carry food with me everywhere,” and the sideways glances don’t get to her.
“It doesn’t bother me… it probably bothers others,” she said, “But it’s the same as giving him a bottle in public.”
“I’m not thinking about anything sexual” when breastfeeding, Raymond asserted, curious why people would be offended or made uncomfortable. “I’m thinking about my child’s need for food.”
Those who wish to join La Leche for The Big Latch On Saturday should arrive at Brookfield Town Hall by 10:15 a.m., Prip said, to ensure that everyone is ready to break a world record at 10:30.