Big turnout for Big Latch On

ROBERT SNYDER - Nearly two dozen mothers and their children spent part of Saturday morning at Jefferson Medical Center as the Ranson hospital hosted its fourth-annual Big Latch On. The event puts the benefits of breastfeeding in the spotlight.

ROBERT SNYDER – Nearly two dozen mothers and their children spent part of Saturday morning at Jefferson Medical Center as the Ranson hospital hosted its fourth-annual Big
Latch On. The event puts the benefits of breastfeeding in the spotlight.

Twenty-two moms, offspring take time for nursing event at Jefferson Mediical

RANSON – Nearly two dozen breastfeeding moms toted their babies and toddlers to Jefferson Medical Center Saturday morning hoping to put the health benefits of nursing squarely in the public eye.

“Breastfeeding is really important, and so is bringing visibility to all the benefits it offers mothers and babies,” explained Dr. Catherine Feaga, who attended the Ranson hospital’s fourth-annual Big Latch On along with her 10-month-old son, Samuel.

The local event is part of World Breastfeeding Week, a global effort to foster greater understanding of the value of nursing. Across the globe, thousands of youngsters spent part of Friday or Saturday nursing at a certified Big Latch On event.

The World Health Organization recommends women exclusively feed their babies breast milk until they’re six months old and continue to nurse through the baby’s first year. The organization’s experts recommend nursing – along with other foods – for children to age 2 or older.

Organizers continue to tally just how many women and children nursed for at least a minute during the Big Latch On, which occurred at 10:30 a.m. Friday or Saturday at hundreds of locations worldwide.

The Big Latch On began in 2005 in New Zealand and continues to spread through the United States and elsewhere.

This year’s event in Ranson included 23 babies or children – more than in past years, said certified nurse midwife Linda Keeling, one of the organizers of the local Big Latch On.

Besides a more robust immune system and other health benefits for babies who nurse, experts say the practice also is a boon to mothers, with nursing found to help shed weight gained in pregnancy, provide protection against breast cancer and other illnesses, and other benefits.

As mothers fed their children, Keeling read aloud a list of ways nursing would be supported in an ideal world, including workplaces that provide space (and breaks) for nursing mothers.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were no need for breastfeeding support groups because everywhere you went, everybody you saw supported you breastfeeding your baby?” Keeling asked.

Glenda Osterberg of Ranson came to the Big Latch On with her daughter Finley, who turned 1 July 19.

Though she’d run into difficulties nursing her son, now 2 1/2, “everything was easier this time,” said Osterberg, who later this month plans to return to her job teaching kindergarten at Driswood Elementary. “I knew my body was made to do this so I just let her nurse. I was much more relaxed, and everything ended up working out.”

The best part about nursing, Osterberg said, is “knowing I can calm down my baby from anything, anytime she needs it.”

Meghan See of Bunker Hill said she wanted to attend the Big Latch On to let other mothers know there’s support available in the difficult weeks after baby arrives.

“The first week, I was ready to give up,” said See, whose daughter Macyn is 5 months old.

Fortunately, See said, she connected with Jane Squires, a lactation consultant who offers a support group Friday mornings at Shenandoah Community Health Center.

“By the time Macyn was six weeks old, everything was working great with breastfeeding and it’s been wonderful ever since,” she said.

Dr. Esther Mwilaria, who like Feaga practices at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine, said she wanted to help raise awareness of the payoffs of breastfeeding. “It’s one thing to say to patients, ‘We recommend breastfeeding for the first year’ and another to show them that this is something you’re able to do yourself,” Mwilaria said.

Larissa Riley attended the Big Latch On with her husband Kevin and their daughter Lorelei, who was born Jan. 16.

Why did she find it important to be part of the event? “Breastfeeding is just fantastic,” she said. “It’s the healthiest thing for the baby and for the bond you have with each other. And it’s practical. And economical.

“There are so many reasons. I can’t imagine any other way.”

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