Press-Republican

August 10, 2013

Moms unite to promote breastfeeding

By JEFF MEYERS
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTBURGH — Olivia Gillett has chosen to breastfeed both her young children, and that decision drew special attention recently.

Gillett, who is from Sciota, was one of about 40 moms to participate in the Plattsburgh area’s second-annual Big Latch On, hosted by CVPH Medical Center to promote breastfeeding as a natural activity in society.

Gillett received accolades for having breastfed her daughter, Nimueh Perron, for the longest duration of all participating moms.

“She’s been breastfeeding for 35 months, almost three years,” said a spirited Gillett after completing the event with Nimueh.

WORLDWIDE EFFORT

The Big Latch On is held across the globe on Aug. 2 or Aug 3 to promote a healthy start for babies and to demonstrate community-wide support for nursing moms and infants, who sometimes still face the stigma of breastfeeding in public.

Moms and babies sat on the front lawn of CVPH, and at precisely 10:30 a.m., began breastfeeding for at least one minute.

Although that minute symbolizes support for breastfeeding moms everywhere, moms are invited to continue breastfeeding if their children are not finished after the allotted time.

‘HEALTHY START’

“It’s just a great way to show support for breastfeeding,” Gillett said. “It’s something we should all accept (as a normal part of the day).

“My mother breastfed us, and the more I learned about it (while pregnant and attending parenting classes), I knew that I wanted to breastfeed with my first child (Augustus, 5), and I knew I would continue with her (Nimueh).”

Augustus actually stopped nursing when he was about 15 months old, but when Gillett was pumping milk for Nimueh, Augustus decided to try again, their mom said.

“It’s really a good thing,” she said of a young child’s interest in breastfeeding. “Mom’s milk is so much healthier for them. It provides a healthy start in life.”

The process came easy for both children, she added. Neither had any problem acclimating to breastfeeding.

YOUNGEST AT EVENT

Kirsten Maes of West Chazy also received accolades during the Big Latch Off, as her daughter, Beatrice, was the youngest breast feeder at 11 days old.

“I like to follow what the pediatricians are saying,” she said of her choice to breastfeed. “They encourage breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and to continue as long as the baby is showing an interest.”

Beatrice is Maes’s second daughter. Fiona, 30 months, also began life breastfeeding.

“I let her lead the way with weaning,” Maes said of Fiona’s desire to stop breastfeeding at 18 months. “She stopped showing an interest, and I stopped reminding her about it.”

Young Beatrice, who slept in a pouch on her mother’s chest as the Big Latch On concluded and had no idea what the ruckus surrounding her was all about, will have many months ahead to reap the benefits of breastfeeding.

“As long as she shows an interest,” her mom said.

REDUCES OBESITY

In all, 44 mothers and their youngsters participated in this year’s event at CVPH.

“Moms all over the world gather at 10:30 a.m. to support breastfeeding,” said Maria Hayes, director of the Center for Women and Children at CVPH. “It reduces the potential for future obesity (in children), it’s healthy, and it’s free.

“We’re going to do this every year,” she added. “We hope that each year it will get bigger, so women can collectively say, ‘This is what I want to do; this is how I want to feed my baby.’”

HIGHER PERCENTAGE

The concept seems to be latching on locally. In the last few years, the percentage of moms breastfeeding their babies when leaving the hospital has risen from 67 percent to 82 percent.

“A lot of it is education,” Hayes said. “Moms can see the benefits of breastfeeding.”

It also has to become even more accepted by communities, she added.

“When they make that choice, they should be able to breastfeed anywhere they choose,” she said. “You and I wouldn’t eat our lunch in the bathroom. Why should a baby have to?”

The Big Latch On originated in New Zealand and was started by Women’s Health Action in 2006 as part of World Breastfeeding Week. La Leche League USA introduced the concept to America in 2012.

Email Jeff Meyers:jmeyers@pressrepublican.com