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Breastfeeding event

In 2017, Erishawn Griffin, of Portage, breastfeeds her 4-month-old son, Nehemiah, at the Milky Way Cafe in Gary. A synchronized breastfeeding event takes place Monday in Munster.

A nationwide synchronized breastfeeding event takes place Saturday in Merrillville as part of Breastfeeding Week.

Community Healthcare System, Franciscan Health, Methodist Hospitals, Mental Health America of Northwest Indiana, Nurse-Family Partnership, Indiana WIC, NWI Breastfeeding Coalition and Northwest Indiana Community Action present the free event, the Big Latch On, which celebrates and promotes breastfeeding.

Women from around the world will be offering support for breastfeeding and their peers during the event, which will run from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Indian American Cultural Center, 8605 Merrillville Road in Merrillville. Registration is from 9 to 10 a.m. with the “latch on” of breastfeeding beginning promptly at 10:30 a.m. There will be food, refreshments and other family activities.

For more information and to register, call (219) 937-7733 or go to biglatchon.org

The event is part of National Breastfeeding Month, which raises awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding to babies, especially premature and fragile infants. It is also part of World Breastfeeding Week — also proclaimed by Gov. Eric Holcomb as Breastfeeding Week in Indiana — which was created to empower parents globally, as breastfeeding is said to be one of the best investments in saving lives and improving the health, social and economic development of individuals and nations.

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According to World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, “not breastfeeding is associated with lower intelligence and results in economic losses of about $302 billion annually. Concerted action is needed in order to achieve the World Health Assembly target of at least 50% exclusive breastfeeding for six months by 2025.”

In the U.S., breastfeeding in public is a woman’s right, supported by law in all 50 states. However, advocates say, the practical side of this can be an issue, and many new mothers worry about negative reactions to feeding their baby in front of strangers.

The Milk Bank, an Indianapolis nonprofit human breast milk bank, offers tips to ease the anxiety of breastfeeding in public.

  • Practice at home. Try in front of a mirror or have someone you trust observe. Start normalizing breastfeeding at home with visitors. What may feel like exposing your body to the world might not even be visible to others.
  • Plan ahead. Going to the store? Start by going somewhere you know has breastfeeding accommodations. Try an app like Mom’s Pump Here that can help you search for a private place to breastfeed.
  • Invest in a good nursing bra. Not only is this important for comfort and supportive of good breast health, there is nothing worse than having to fumble when settling down to feed your baby.
  • Wear layers. A stretchy tank can be versatile, and an oversized T-shirt or button-down can act as a cover or blanket.
  • Choose a comfortable location. Find a quiet area like a park bench or a shady spot under a tree. It looks like nothing more to potential onlookers than a mom snuggling with her baby.
  • Watch your baby’s cues. A crying baby who is hungry and frantic could draw attention and add to your anxiety. A calm baby will more than likely latch quickly and successfully.
  • If, on the off chance you encounter negative comments, think of a response that is both firm and polite. No need to apologize; you are doing nothing wrong. A kind smile often is all you need to deter onlookers.

In addition, the Indiana State Fair, which takes place Aug. 2-18, has a lactation station RV, where lactating mothers can find a clean, cool place to breastfeed and change their babies while attending the fair.

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