A mother’s breastfeeding journey is one of the most special bonding experiences she can have with her baby, but it’s not without its challenges. Even though there are legal protections for mothers to breastfeed their babies in public, there are too many news stories to count where these rights are violated. Nursing mothers have been asked to leave shopping centers and public pools, told to “cover up” at restaurants, and humiliated by court judges for feeding their hungry infants. This World Breastfeeding Week, we encourage you to join your fellow nursing moms at The Global Big Latch On, a series of events to promote and normalize breastfeeding and help breastfeeding moms find community.
The first Big Latch On event was organized by Women’s Health Action in New Zealand in 2005. Joanne Edwards of Small Beginnings Group in Portland, Oregon introduced the event to the US in 2010. The goals of the original event were to:
- Provide community support for breastfeeding.
- Raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Positively support breastfeeding in public and discourage breastfeeding shaming.
- Normalize breastfeeding as a part of day-to-day life in communities.
- Increase support networks for breastfeeding.
- Improve local resources for breastfeeding advocacy and accessibility.
In 2017 the Big Latch On included 23 participating countries, 725 locations, 17,790 breastfed children, 18,036 women breastfeeding and/or expressing, and more than 50,000 attendees.
The Big Latch On
The main event takes place August 3rd - 5th during World Breastfeeding Week. On any of these days, visit a participating location; Kindred Bravely is proud to be a diamond sponsor of Breastfeeding World’s five coast-to-coast Big Latch On events! At 10:30 am (in your time zone), start breastfeeding or pumping! You’ll be counted as part of the Global Big Latch On tally. You can expect photographers and lactation consultants on-site, as well as community organizers and fellow moms with their children. Partners and friends are encouraged to attend the events in solidarity. Some locations offer giveaways, music, food trucks, children’s crafts, farmer’s markets, and other forms of entertainment. Find community and get great tips from fellow breastfeeding supporters.
Keep an eye out for Kindred Bravely at events by The Big Latch On Quad Cities, Walworth County Breastfeeding Resource Fair, Alamance County WIC Program, The Birthing Circle, Virginia Birth Expo by Rocktown Doulas, Indy Breastfeeding USA - Indy Latch On event, Wheaton WIC Clinic, Mid-Iowa Community Action WIC - Breastfeeding Week event, La Leche League of Fort Bend, and the Cleavage Club Big Latch On.
If you can’t make it to The Big Latch On, or if you want to do even more to celebrate breastfeeding, here are a few other ways to participate in the Global Big Latch On:
- Express Yourself – Moms who pump are encouraged to calculate the amount of time they spend expressing milk over a 24-hour period, from 12:00 am – 11:59 pm on August 7th, along with the amount of milk they produce. These numbers are tallied to celebrate all the ways moms provide breast milk to their babies.
- Selfies Sunday – Nursing mothers and their babies can join the fun and show their support by posting a breastfeeding or pumping photo on Sunday, August 5th. Use the hashtag #mybiglatchon2018 when you share on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to be included in the count.
- Big Flange On – The Big Flange On aims to set the record for the most women expressing milk at the same time. Stay tuned for the next campaign, likely in April 2019.
This Year’s New Event
Working Wednesday is a new breastfeeding event for 2018. On Wednesday, August 1st, working, breastfeeding moms are encouraged to post a photo pumping or breastfeeding at work to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the hashtag #workingwednesday2018. The goal is to spread breastfeeding awareness and create a database of public imagery to normalize the practice.
Since 2010, the Affordable Care Act has required employers to provide a “reasonable break time” and “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public” for expressing milk. However, the law only applies for up to one year for hourly, nonexempt employees typically covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and workplaces with more than 50 employees.
Despite the federal law, one study found 60% of breastfeeding moms who return to work do not receive fair time and space to express milk, making it difficult to continue nursing. The reality is that many moms have to cram in pumping sessions during their lunch breaks, express milk in closets, and pump in their cars to make ends meet.
A Facebook chat for working, breastfeeding moms will take place on The Global Big Latch On Facebook page at 6 pm PDT.
Hosting An Event
There's still time to host your own Big Latch On event on August 3rd, 4th, or 5th. Simply register your private or public location and send in your tallies within 24 hours to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in hosting a public event, you can use traditional advertising methods or promote the event via social media. Many organizers get in touch with local businesses like bakeries, toyshops, health care providers, midwives, lactation consultants, health food stores, mom-owned businesses, daycares, entertainers, photographers, and spas to help sponsor their events.
After the event, you’re encouraged to participate in the Big Small Catch Up, an informal local gathering of Big Latch On participants. If there are no locations near you, consider hosting one of your own and starting a local breastfeeding support group.
Questions The Big Latch On Can Answer For You
As you enter the brave new world of nursing, you may encounter a few obstacles, including social stigma. The Big Latch On is a great place to connect with other breastfeeding and pumping moms in your community and get their answers to questions like
- Can I breastfeed in public?
- Will people stare at me if I breastfeed in public?
- Do I have to wear a nursing cover?
- What can I wear to nurse in public?
- How can I make pumping at work easier?
- What are my pumping rights?
- Can I post pictures of myself nursing?
- Which local stores sell breastfeeding supplies?
- Are there any baby cafes in my area?
- Is there a breastfeeding app to tell me where to breastfeed in public?
- Which local businesses and public spaces have the best breastfeeding facilities?
What We Love About The Big Latch On
These breastfeeding events are an important part of World Breastfeeding Week, which is now celebrated in over 175 countries with endorsements from UNICEF and the WHO. The Big Latch On events are intentionally held over multiple days to encourage more people to get involved. The organizers want breastfeeding to be recognized as a healthy form of nourishment for our children, not something that should be hidden away.
Nursing is a natural act, but it’s not without controversy. Despite the scientific consensus that breastfeeding is the optimal food for infants, a US delegation recently sought to remove language in a UN resolution that would “protect, promote, and support breastfeeding” or that would halt “inappropriate promotion of food products that may have deleterious effects on infants and young children.” The US representatives threatened to withdraw military aid and trade for Ecuador if it supported the resolution.
There are still women pumping in workplace bathrooms under the sink or in rooms with ongoing surveillance; women are forced to quit their jobs because they were not allowed adequate nursing or pumping breaks. The pain of being judged or shamed for their breastfeeding choices can stick with mothers many years later.
To help address these challenges, the Big Latch On draws attention to the importance of breastfeeding support within local communities. Like any good grassroots movement, the local emphasis encourages a greater sense of camaraderie. Whether you’re nursing your first or your fifth, the Big Latch On offers an exhilarating chance to be part of something bigger than yourself and to remember that, while breastfeeding can sometimes feel lonely, you’re not alone; there’s an encouraging global community of breastfeeding supporters, who would love your help as they work to ensure every mom’s breastfeeding rights.
Photo credit: Breastfeeding World