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Mothers band together to support breastfeeding as part of global event

Thousands of women across 23 countries banded together for the “Global Big Latch On” Friday, a synchronized breastfeeding event to mark World Breastfeeding Week. Four moms participated at Peconic Bay Medical Center as did four more at HRHCare Health Center, both in Riverhead.

Joined by agencies like the Suffolk County Breastfeeding Coalition and other healthcare providers, nursing moms at PBMC began feeding around 10:30 a.m., to be counted in the event’s official tally.

The worldwide event is meant to foster a support network for moms and bring awareness to the cause through the simultaneous feeding. It began in New Zealand in 2005 and last year, 17,990 children were breastfed in 23 countries.

Lynne Digiuseppe, a breastfeeding coordinator with the county’s Women, Infants and Children program, said this was the first year PBMC participated in the event.

“It’s nice to join in on a worldwide event,” said Ms. Digiuseppe, adding that it helps moms feel less alone.

In 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to support breastfeeding. That report states that in the United States, bottle feeding is viewed en masse as the “normal” way to feed infants, and that mothers face barriers like a lack of familial support and embarrassment.

“We’re here to show moms that it’s OK to breastfeed in public and not to feel ashamed or let other people make them feel uncomfortable,” Ms. Digiuseppe said.

The participants in Friday’s event at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. (Credit: Tara Smith)

Increasingly, lactation “pods” are popping up in public spaces, so moms have a space to feed or pump without being sent to the restroom.

Jennifer Burns-Peterson, a clinical nutrition manager at PBMC, attended Friday’s event. She said she advocates for breastfeeding after nursing both of her sons, now 8 and 12. “It’s affordable, it’s convenient, and there are health benefits for mom and baby,” Ms. Peterson said. “And you don’t have to worry about running out.”

Several vendors and agencies were on hand to discuss available resources with the moms, including Dr. Lisa Visentin, a pediatrician and lactation consultant at Peconic Pediatrics. Her Riverhead office functions as a one-stop for new moms who must juggle initial doctor visits and learning the intricacies of breastfeeding: how to position a baby, achieve a successful latch and other techniques.

“We’re the person that Mom sees in those first few weeks after birth,” Dr. Visentin said. “They aren’t necessarily seeing their [OB-GYN] or their own doctor, so if moms are having trouble or have questions, we’re the person they’re going to see. So it’s important for us to be a resource,” she said.

Top photo: Megan Hays of Southold (from left), Ashley Maher of Riverhead and Kathryn Cannino of Islip Terrace nurse their infants for the Global Big Latch On event held at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead Friday. (Credit: Tara Smith)

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