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The Big Latch On Breastfeeding Event in Monteplier, VT
Posted on Wednesday, August 5, 2015 by Stevie Balch, RN, IBCLC

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stevie Balch, RN, IBCLC is the Coordinator for the Center for Breastfeeding at UVM Health Network - CVMC.

[Photo Above: Vermont families gathered in Montpelier on August 1st to take part in the worldwide "The Big Latch On" event to promote the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week.]

Over 175 countries across the globe celebrate the first week in August as “World Breastfeeding Week.” Each year the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) selects a theme for the week-long international celebration, to raise awareness and encourage action supporting breastfeeding mothers.World Breastfeeding Week Logo "Breastfeeding and Work"

This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding and Work: Making it Work,” highlights the complexity of role mothers face on return to the workforce.

In Vermont, 90% of mothers breastfeed their babies, many exclusively, for at least the first several weeks of their babies’ lives. Nationally, breastfeeding initiation rates are much lower, averaging 75%. But by six months, fewer than 67% of Vermont mothers continue to breastfeed; nationally fewer than half of all mothers continue to provide nature’s finest  nutrition, breast milk, for their babies, and only 19% exclusively breastfeed.

Reasons for the sharp drop in breastfeeding rates over time are varied, but return to work is associated with unplanned weaning across socio-cultural groups throughout the nation.

The Challenges to Returning to Work

World map showing Paid Maternity Leave

Reasons for the sharp drop in breastfeeding rates over time are varied, but return to work is associated with unplanned weaning across socio-cultural groups throughout the nation. [Map Source: McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy]

Most mothers report they find it challenging enough to manage their workload after a period away; to have to interrupt their workday every few hours to pump to provide milk for their babies can seem overwhelming. Add to this these factors:

  • limited facilities for expressing their breast milk while at work,
  • minimal employer support,
  • coworker misunderstanding or overt antagonism,
  • fatigue,
  • day care practices inadequately protective of  mothers’ milk, and
  • decreasing pump yields when separated from their babies,

and one can readily see why mothers resort to formula supplementation, or wean altogether.

The Big Latch On

Ever mounting evidence shows the significant health benefits breastfeeding provides to mothers, their babies, the community, and the planet. WABA hopes initiatives such as “The Big Latch-On”, held this year July 31st and August 1st   will encourage open discussion and help reestablish breastfeeding as the norm for infant nutrition.

Vermont mothers gathered in host locations throughout the state to latch their babies to their breasts in synch with mothers across the globe. According to WABA, “whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal, or home setting, she needs to feel sufficiently empowered to claim the right to breastfeed on behalf of both  herself and her baby.” The “Big Latch-On” provided a moment of solidarity among breastfeeding mothers everywhere, encouraging mothers to connect and to celebrate. WABA reports the Big Latch On this year broke the previous 2103 record of 14,536 children latched to their mother’s breasts during the measured minute, with 14,889 children at breast. 36,502 people attended the Big Latch On to support breastfeeding.

August is Vermont Breastfeeding Promotion Month

The Innocenti Declaration, produced and adopted at the World Health Organization/UNICEF policymakers meeting in Florence Italy, 1990, encourages countries to enact imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women, and establish means for its enforcement.”

In the United States, 49 states now carry legislative protections for breastfeeding mothers. Vermont Law assures breastfeeding mothers the right to breastfeed  anywhere they otherwise have a legal right to be. In July, Governor Shumlin signed an Executive Proclamation designating August as Vermont Breastfeeding Promotion month. However, much work remains before nurturing babies at breast, a core mammalian function, is reestablished as the American cultural norm. 

About The Center for Breastfeeding at CVMC

The Center for Breastfeeding at CVMC supports breastfeeding mothers with a continuum of services from prenatal education  through the first weeks postpartum, during the return to work, and through weaning. Our evening Breastfeeding Celebration Groups “Bosom Buddies” for newborns to toddling, and “Bosom Buddies Too’ for extended breastfeeding mothers meet monthly, providing lively forums for moms and babies to share, build friendships, and find support. Call the Center for Breastfeeding at 802-371-4415 for more information or go to www.cvmc.org/our-services/birthing-center/center-breastfeeding