About 300 Delaware mothers and their babies have their sights set not only on breaking the record for simultaneous breastfeeding, but also on boosting breastfeeding rates in the First State.
Next month, the moms will take part in what's called the "Delaware Big Latch On," part of a worldwide event where breastfeeding women latch on their children for one minute. According to thebiglatchon.org, 8,862 mothers and their children participated last year; the world record for simultaneous breastfeeding was set in October 2010, when 9,826 nursing mothers at 325 locations in 16 countries nursed their children.
"Families, mothers can attend to build a sense of community and support for breastfeeding in Delaware with the added bonus of trying to break the record of the most women breastfeeding simultaneously," said lactation consultant, and organizer of Delaware's Big Latch On, Katie Madden.
The Delaware chapter will hold its Big Latch On on Aug. 3 at the University of Delaware Laboratory Preschool between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Babies are scheduled to latch on at exactly 10:30 a.m. kicking off World Breastfeeding Week.
"A lot of women feel very isolated by breastfeeding... and this allows women to be around other women who are breastfeeding," Madden said. "In Delaware in particular, I think it's really important because our breastfeeding rates are very low compared to the rest of the country, so the more we can do to encourage breastfeeding in Delaware, the better it'll be for breastfeeding rates overall."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months; however, the Centers for Disease Control's 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card shows only 13.1 percent of Delaware's moms exclusively breastfeeding for that long.
"I think it's important that the community see that there are events like this, to know that there's a lot of women out there that are breastfeeding and that breastfeeding in public, in particular, is a normal thing that everybody should accept and embrace," Madden said.
Breastfeeding in public
The Big Latch On comes after a couple of controversial incidents involving nursing mothers occurred earlier this year. Back in January, a local woman said she was harassed for nursing in public at the Concord Mall in Wilmington. A month later, a Dover-area high school made news after it said it would not accommodate a teen mother's need to pump and later store her breastmilk during school hours.
"The more we're asking women to leave public places and go into the bathroom, the more we're saying that breastfeeding is something that is inconvenient, and something that should be done out of sight," Madden said, adding because breasts are "hypersexualized" in the U.S. compared with other countries, "people feel uncomfortable seeing it, that it's something that should be done in private or something that's dirty."
The CDC describes breastfeeding as "one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant."
No matter one's opinion about breastfeeding, nursing moms are entitled to nurse in public, covered up or not, according to Delaware law.
Madden hopes the Big Latch On will serve as a poignant reminder of the basic purpose of breasts, which is to feed a child, and the many health benefits linked to breastmilk.