GUILDFORD — More than 70 women gathered and nursed their babies in a Surrey mall Saturday (Sept. 30) as part of World Breastfeeding Week.
“It shows the public support for breastfeeding,” said mom Juanita Vandekamp. “When you’re out and about you can get looks for breastfeeding which makes you feel shamed. This kind of event makes it feel normalized.”
The annual Breastfeeding Challenge was held at Guildford Town Centre. While World Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated globally for more than 20 years, Surrey residents have been showing their support with the annual challenge for the past five years.
At 11 a.m. mothers were encouraged to nurse their infants as a way to increase public awareness of the normalcy of breastfeeding.
|Juanita Vandekamp and her one-year-old son Nikola took part in Saturday’s Breastfeeding Challenge at Surrey’s Guildford Town Centre. (Photo: Alex Wilks)|
“It’s important to have that support,” said Vandekamp. “It’s nice to see so many other moms breastfeeding because you need so much support in those early days.”
Fraser Health public health nurse Katherine Bartel said the event was created to spread awareness and emphasis the benefit of breastfeeding for mothers and their babies as well as to combat the negative stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public.
“We are just trying to celebrate breastfeeding,” said Bartel. “What we know is that over 90 per cent of moms in Canada want to breastfeed but there are a lot of roadblocks, a cultural misunderstanding about what is normal for infant feeding and moms own disbelief that their bodies can make this wonderful fluid.”
Bartel said breastfeeding can lower an infant’s risk of having asthma, allergies and infections. The milk also contains antibodies that help the baby fight off bacteria.
“There are so many health savings when moms are able to breastfeed their babies for the first six months to the first year,” said Bartel. “There are long-term effects in terms of chronic disease, diabetes, allergies, acute infections and mother’s heart disease later on in life. The health returns are immeasurable.”
With more than 120 countries across the world participating in World Breastfeeding Week (some celebrate in the summer as opposed to the fall), Bartel expects the celebration to grow larger each year.
“It’s empowering for mothers to be able to give their babies breastmilk and we just want to make it so that moms can feel happy about how they are feeding their babies,” she said.
“A lot of moms don’t get to their desired goals with breastfeeding so what we want to do is make it a celebration of their wonderful life-giving fluid that our bodies have produced since the beginning of time.”