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Where’s your little latcher?

South Boston News
SoVaNow.com / July 29, 2013
Turn on your television or catch nation and international news on Friday and Saturday and you might see colorful coverage of the Big Latch On, a synchronized publicity event in which women from around the globe — from South Africa to South Korea — breastfeed their babies at the same time at a registered location. The idea is to draw attention to World Breastfeeding Week, which starts Thursday.

Now, there’s no Big Latch On in Halifax County — maybe next year, supporters hint — but there is always local support for breastfeeding mothers and families, advocates say.

Senecca Kirkhart, a pediatric nurse practitioner and licensed lactation consultant at Fuller-Roberts Clinic, is thrilled to see new interest in breastfeeding among younger moms in the 18-20 age range. She attributes it to word-of-mouth: “It really is about the peers,” she says. “I can talk all day, but if their best friend ….”

Kirkhart also credits Christine Creasy, who for five years has been the breastfeeding peer counselor for the Halifax County Health Department. Creasy works with women receiving WIC (Women, Infants and Children) supplements to encourage them to breastfeed and support them when they do. Her program can lend out breast pumps — or even give out high-end breast pumps to women who are breastfeeding exclusively.

Creasy, who has four children (and, of course, breastfed them all), says reception to breastfeeding is still quite mixed locally. Some recoil at the word “breast.” She spends time countering what she calls myths: that formula is just as good, that it hurts (only when you do it incorrectly), and, sometimes, objections on religious grounds.

“Lack of support is a lot,” she says: When a woman’s partner, friends or family aren’t cool with her breastfeeding, she isn’t as likely to keep at it.

And why should a mother breastfeed? Research data about breastfeeding’s health benefits to both mother and child are legion, plus, for the mother, there’s weight loss, less bleeding, convenience and the cost savings of not buying formula.

(One 12.5 ounce can of powdered infant Enfamil is about $17. This, on top of all those diapers.)

While WIC, obstetricians, pediatricians and the hospital all offer help and information, ongoing is a local support system even more personal: a Facebook page.

Victoria Worley is a Nathalie mother and a moderator of the site. (It’s “closed” only in that one needs to request to join.) On it, breastfeeding women discuss everything from babies’ sleeping arrangements to working while breastfeeding to foods that help ramp up milk supply, says Worley. Then, just for fun, they meet for lunch or dinner every month or so.

Olivia Berneche, of Chase City, is among those Facebook page participants — and she’ll be taking her little latchers (they’re twins) later this week to Richmond, the closest Big Latch On location.

Richmond is, after all, a long way to drive just for lunch, but Berneche thinks the cause is worth it: “I have been nursing at least one baby since 2009, and this is an event we look forward to annually because it offers a chance to meet face-to-face with other mothers and babies who are all proud to be there. What we all are doing for our families is something that should be celebrated, and I am grateful for any opportunity to shed positive light on something so vital to the well being of our children.”

More information:

For mothers who breastfeed: Look for South Boston Bosom Buddies on Facebook.

World Breastfeeding Week: http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

Information about breastfeeding:

http://www.vahealth.org/DCN/Breastfeed/Community/breasthome.htm.

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