Big Latch-On Draws Attention To Breastfeeding Benefits

By Gloria Casas The Courier-News, Elgin, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "The Big Latch-On event" is a part of Breastfeeding Week, an effort to educate mothers about making informed decisions regarding breastfeeding. At exactly 10:30 a.m., each baby latched on to their mom's breast in an event that was coordinated in every time zone around the world.

The Courier-News, Elgin, Ill.

Nine-month-old Maverick Collins' T-shirt message, "I'm a boob man," said it all.

The little guy lived up to the words Saturday morning as he nursed at his mom's breast as part of the Big Latch-On, an event aimed at encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies in the first six to 12 months of their life.

"It's a normal, healthy thing to do," said Maverick's mom, Joelle Hinkelgey, whose own T-shirt said, "Milk Maker."

Maverick laid in his mom's arms as she and a dozen other mothers and babies sat around a colorful parachute at a gathering held at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. Musician Kate Taylor played a soothing lullaby and Gail Borden librarian Madeleine Villalobos read a book to calm the crowd.

At exactly 10:30 a.m., each baby latched on to their mom's breast in an event that was coordinated in every time zone around the world, organizers said. The thought of so many moms breastfeeding at the same time was thrilling, Hinkelgey said.

"It is amazing and totally cool," said the Arlington Heights mom of two said.

Four-month-old Mason Mertogul latched on right away, hungry but calm while nursing. Jessica Mertogul, his mom, said she found the Big Latch-On empowering.

Mason was born weighing just six pounds. In four months, he's almost doubled his weight and is a happy baby with chubby legs and feet, said Mertogul, a first-time mom. She knew only a little about breastfeeding -- no one in her family had nursed their babies -- so she sought out information through Sherman Hospital's Empowered Pregnancy program.

"I know I am growing a healthy baby," said Mertogul, of South Elgin mom, who's become a breastfeeding advocate. Statistics show that if 90 percent of new moms breastfed their babies for the first six months, $31.1 billion a year in health care costs could be saved, said Jill Downey, lactation coordinator for Sherman.

The annual Latch-On event is a part of Breastfeeding Week, an effort coordinated by the Kane County Breastfeeding Coalition and an extension of what Sherman tries to do year round by educating mothers about making informed decisions, Downey said.

The Kane County Breastfeeding Coalition, which includes other hospitals, businesses and government offices, works to inform parents about the benefits of breastfeeding as well and to offer "support as families make their first parenting decision," said Theresa Heaton, director of Kane County Family Health Division. "Then we want to make it an easier choice by offering support and more information."

The World Health Organization recommends women breastfeed for the first year of a child's life, she said. According to the WHO, there are cognitive and health benefits for babies and it can help prevent illnesses, such as pneumonia, which can sometimes lead to an infant's death, its website said. For moms, breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, the website said.

A study of 194 nations found only 40 percent of children were exclusively breastfed and only 23 countries have breastfeeding rates above 60 percent, the website said.

While breastfeeding is a natural act, it can be challenging for some women, said Downey, who helps moms through the process. She also runs a support group for breastfeeding mothers at the hospital.

Jess Bedsole knows about the challenges. She was determined to breastfeed her first child but it didn't go as she thought it would, she said.

"I didn't know latching on would be a problem," Bedsole said. The first 12 weeks were difficult and at one point, she developed mastitis, an infection of the milk ducts, she said. The condition led to painful breast sores, but she "nursed through it," she said.

"I refused to stop," she said. "I told myself there is no other way to feed my baby."

Pattie Kaczorowski, of Hoffman Estates, breastfed both her children, Blake, now 4, and Elizabeth, 21 months.

"I didn't realize it wouldn't be easy," she said. Her first born refused to latch on so she pumped and gave the baby breast milk in a bottle. Downey helped with troubleshooting issues, said Kaczorowski, who had better luck with her daughter.

The support group was a good place to talk about her experience and get ideas from other moms, she said.

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