Attention all breastfeeding mothers: An event Saturday morning invites mothers and their children to nurse together in hopes of making breastfeeding in public more normal.
The free event invites nursing mothers to congregate at set locations around the globe and latch on at a set time in hopes of setting a world-wide participation goal.
"It's just kind of a neat statement and it encourages the normalcy of breastfeeding in public," said Heather Tomaszewski, a nurse and lactation counselor at St. Elizabeth's.
The event is held in conjunction with the Big Latch On, an organization founded in New Zealand to encourage communities to support families in hopes of making breastfeeding a normal part of life.
The Big Latch On 2014 will be at two metro-east locations:
* 10:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth's Millennium Room, 340 West Lincoln St. in Belleville. Mothers are encouraged to arrive by 10 a.m. to register.
* 10 a.m. at Drost Park in Maryville put on by the Edwardsville Region Breastfeeding Task Force.
The event has grown every year since it was created in 2005. During the Big Latch On in 2013, organizers said more than 14,500 women breastfed simultaneously.
This year marks the first time that St. Elizabeth's will participate.
Medical experts have long touted that breastmilk contains unique nutrients to help babies grow and strengthen their immune systems.
"Breastfeeding is best for women and babies," Tomaszewski said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breastfeed at least the first 12 months of a baby's life, and longer as mother and baby desire, for health benefits:
* Breasfeeding decreases the possibilities babies will contract a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections, diarrhea and more.
* Breasfeeding helps new mothers lose pregnancy weight and lowers their risk of ovarian and breast cancer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
However, breastfeeding in public remains a hot topic.
The Edwardsville Region Breastfeeding Task Force, which meets monthly at Memorial Hospital, lists breastfeeding-friendly businesses on its website, edwardsvilleregionbreastfeeding.org.
"It's a normal thing and as long as people are discreet, it shouldn't be something that is a big deal," Tomaszewski said.
For more information about the Big Latch On, visit biglatchon.org.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at email@example.com or 618-239-2460.