Getting attention for breastfeeding

Photos of women feeding babies part of campaign
2010-08-24T06:22:00Z 2010-08-24T19:00:45Z Getting attention for breastfeedingJANINE ANDERSON Journal Times

RACINE - While out with her family one day, Lisa Andrews' son was hungry.

She breastfeeds, and so found a place to sit down, and began to feed him. While she was sitting there, a man walked over.

"This little old guy came up and said ‘You're doing a good thing for that baby,'" she said.

He could have just as easily been heading her way to ask her to go somewhere else, she said. Andrews, 30, is the Women Infants and Children (WIC) project coordinator and registered dietician in Racine. As a breastfeeding mother herself, she has personal experience with many of the things clients want to know when they are preparing for the birth of their baby. WIC provides assistance for women who want to breastfeed - like a lactation consultant, breast pumps and a greater food allowance for the increased calories a breastfeeding mother needs - as well as those who use formula.

This year, Andrews wanted to focus on breastfeeding for WIC's outreach efforts, and came up with the We're Better Together public awareness and information campaign. This week, 17 life-size photographs of nine women breastfeeding their babies will be placed throughout the community.

"I had someone say ‘What does breastfeeding have to do with me?'" she said. "That old guy gave me that community support. Breastfeeding affects everyone directly or indirectly. It has a little bit of something to do with everyone."

The We're Better Together campaign is looking to educate people about the health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers - research has shown women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancers - while highlighting what a breastfeeding mother's rights are.

With the passage of a bill sponsored by Racine legislators Rep. Cory Mason and Sen. John Lehman, both Democrats, it became every breastfeeding woman's right to feed her baby any place where she and the child are able to be, and, no one may tell her to move, cover herself or her child, or restrict her from breastfeeding.

"I think it's important to bring out that breastfeeding is a natural, the most natural, way of feeding your child," said Sarah Waldron, 27, Racine.

The registered nurse said she immediately agreed to take part in the campaign.

"Moms out there need to see other moms they might recognize in the grocery store," she said. "We're doing this because we believe in feeding our children the most natural way."

Waldron, who is also a member of La Leche League, a breastfeeding support organization, said she has never shied away from breastfeeding her children wherever they've needed to be fed. She said no one has ever asked her to stop, but also said she tries to be discreet.

"When I nurse you can't really tell," she said. "I might put the stroller at an angle. It looks more like I'm holding him."

Public information campaigns like this are helping to normalize breastfeeding as a means to feed your child, Andrews said. A similar campaign in California had the saying "When breastfeeding is accepted it won't be noticed" on the photographs. Here, the messages point toward the health benefits for women and their babies.

Dottie-Kay Bowersox, public health administrator for the City of Racine, said for a mother who is breastfeeding, the alternative to feeding her hungry child is having a baby who is upset or distraught.

"You feel like they're all looking at you," she said. "You wouldn't imagine asking a woman to take her baby with a bottle into a (bathroom) stall," Bowersox said. "Why someone who's breastfeeding?"

Bowersox and Andrews said it was important for them to have the photographs be of women breastfeeding, and not just women with their babies.

"They are nice, appropriate pictures of a realistic look at breastfeeding," Bowersox said. "It's not sexual when you breastfeed, and you don't have to expose the breast."

Camela Langendorf, 37, Mount Pleasant, runs Images by Camela. She was one of the three photographers who worked with the mothers to create the photographs. She photographed three women.

"There was a lot of head-turning," she said. "We were right (outside) on Main Street photographing them. It was already getting a lot of attention."

The challenge, she said, was to make sure the women were comfortable, the babies were happy, and the photographs did what the campaign needed: showed women breastfeeding.

"Those issues you have as a new mother, you're creating an issue in a public place because they're crying," she said. "You want to feed them, but when you feel like you're on display or people aren't accepting of it, it makes it harder."

Langendorf and everyone involved with the project said they hope this campaign will help increase everyone's awareness of how they can help.

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