It was a baby bonanza at the Kid's Kingdom playground behind as almost 30 mothers arrived to participate in the Big Latch On, an international celebration of women all over the world who gathered in groups to share a moment of maternal camaraderie with a minute of communal breastfeeding.
Latch On refers to the infant's ability at birth to begin the breastfeeding process. According to Karin Ali, the coordinator for the La Leche League of Greater Danbury, breastfeeding is not always as easy as mothers wish it was.
The mission of the La Leche League is to provide mother-to-mother support for women who are or would like to breastfeed.
“We also provide support for loving guidance, which is learning how to discipline children, whole foods and natural birth,” she said. “Of course, moms who are bottle feeding are welcome to join.”
Ali recognized that not all women are able to successfully breastfeed, but said that the other programs in the league make it well worth joining. “There is a continuum, and wherever a mother is in her life, is just fine.”
There are circumstances in which breastfeeding may be difficult, such as with a caesarian birth, but Ali said, “Despite the conventional wisdom that nursing is difficult, and it is different for all women, the fact is that all women can breastfeed with support.”
One mother, Jessica Ryan, whose daughter Emmy is 16 months old, joined La Leche League after being unsuccessful with her first child, who never latched and had serious food allergies.
“I had a caesarian and was able to have Emmy in the recovery room with me before she was given any bottles, and we had a better start," she said. "And this time I had La Leche league and lactation consultants who were able to support me.”
That point was driven home by the women who came to The Big Latch On on Saturday. One mom had brought her tiny premature baby who was born two months early, and by six months old was not only on target with all four-month-old developmental landmarks, but was already doing things expected of a six-month-old. Many other moms said they had struggled in the beginning, and a few mothers were still breastfeeding their toddlers.
Jane Hunt of Danbury said she and her 20-month-old son Joseph still reaped the benefits of nursing.
“I didn't start out intending to nurse a toddler,” she said. “But I work out of the house and it is a way for us to reconnect. He really likes to nurse and every child is different. The relationship changes over time and he doesn't nurse 12 times a day anymore. He eats three meals a day and he is very independent with his bottle and sippy cup. But nursing provides comfort and he still doesn't like cows milk.”
Karen Foster of the La Leche League said that children who breastfeed are less likely to be picky eaters.
“Children experience the taste of foods in their mother's milk. It changes with what the moms eat, as opposed to formula, which always tastes the same.”
Many moms said that the health benefits alone are reasons to breastfeed.
“ Studies prove that there is less risk of breast cancer in the mother and the children experience less risk of diabetes, leukemia and and food allergies in breastfed babies,” Ali said.
Hunt's baby Joseph has only been to the doctor for one sick visit in his life and she attributes that to nursing.
Chrys Prip, co-coordinator of the La Leche League, said, “Any amount of breastfeeding is a tremendous gift, so don't feel guilty if you can't do it more than once.”