ST. PETERSBURG — Mothers and babies bonded at the Global Big Latch On breastfeeding event held at Pinellas Technical College (PTC) last Friday morning and at Girls Inc. in Pinellas Park on Saturday. The latter corresponded with simultaneous events all over the world.
Women’s Health Action initiated the Big Latch On in New Zealand in 2005. The event was held in two countries at 147 locations in its first year. By 2013, the program participation had grown to 28 countries, 845 locations with 14,536 latched on babies simultaneously.
Both Pinellas County events saw 27 mothers and 28 babies participate. Behind the number of participants are the benefits of breastfeeding.
“The first two years are incredibly critical for an infant,” said Florida Department of Health’s Samantha Staley speaking at the PTC event.
“What breastfeeding does is it actually sets the bacterial pattern in the gut,” said Staley. “That bacterial pattern sets the stage for a lifetime of outcomes. So what that means is if a child is not breastfed, their risks of having diabetes, having obesity and having different kinds of cancer is going to be much greater if they’re not breast fed.”
Lakeisha Murphy Ferrer is a mother who participated in the Big Latch On at Girls Inc. in Pinellas Park. She was thrilled to express why she breastfeeds her infant.
“My mom breast fed us, and she kinda let us self-wean,” said Ferrer, who shared another personal detail related to breastfeeding. “I remember being a happy, healthy baby, and I really wanted to do the same for him…My favorite moments were holding him and letting him eat and just feeling like a mom.”
Ferrer also liked the positive research that tied breastfeeding to a stronger immune system.
“It’s the best happy meal out there,” said Danielle Van Dyke of Pinellas Park.
“It’s healthy and it’s free and readily available-you don’t have to prepare any bottles,” said participant Samantha Haines.
Le Lecha League leader of Pinellas County Wanda Daniels said she started coming to the league meetings when she had her son 16 years ago. She not only learned about breastfeeding but also became one of the organization leaders in the annual event.
“The Le Leche League was founded 60 years ago in Illinois by a group of moms who wanted to breast feed their babies in a time where breast feeding was not very much supported,” said Daniels.
She said that doctors were the first to disagree with breast feeding by saying that the man made formula was better than breast milk, “which was later proven to not be true.” As a result, the Le Leche League expanded across the United States and around the world, according to Daniels.
Le Leche currently holds monthly meetings, takes phone calls related to breastfeeding and encourages breast feeding for as long as the moms and babies want.