Jennifer Cochrane feeds her five-month-old daughter Gwendolyn outside the Smithers Public Library last Saturday as part of the Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge.

Jennifer Cochrane feeds her five-month-old daughter Gwendolyn outside the Smithers Public Library last Saturday as part of the Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge.

Ready, set, latch!

Mothers around the world breastfeed in annual challenge

Mothers in Smithers breastfed their children to promote the benefits and to help normalize breastfeeding outside the library last Saturday.

The Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge was started in B.C. in 2011 by the Quintessence Foundation and is now a global challenge with thousands of people participating in this year’s latch. It also draws attention to World Breastfeeding Week that ran from Oct. 1-7.

Smithers participated in the challenge roughly two years ago when about a dozen mothers gathered at Heavenly Grinds.

Taryn Opel, public health nurse with Smithers Public Health, said they want to promote the benefits of breastfeeding.

“It’s to increase awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and also that this is something we want people to be aware of and accepting of because it’s a natural thing that is very important for our communities because we want to raise healthy babies,”  said Opel.

This year, 10 mothers and babies showed up to latch on outside the Smithers Public Library.

“I think it’s just a good initiative to support,” said Amy Stokes, who participated in the challenge. “I had a pretty easy time breastfeeding all my kids . . .  but I definitely see that there are a lot of challenges and it kind of highlights how easy I had it.”

Brie Mcaloney was there breastfeeding her nine-month-old daughter Eliana and hopes the event will help normalize breastfeeding in public.

“When people don’t do things in public, they sort of become taboo and when you bring them out into the open, they become more normal,” said Mcaloney.

“The only time I remember being shy was when I was at the airport,” she said. “[Eliana] was screaming and there was no way I could go anywhere even if I wanted to. I realized that more people were looking at me because my baby was screaming. I’m pretty sure most of those people were like ‘can you please feed your baby’?”

According to Anne Jarry, support worker with Smithers Pregnancy Outreach, there has been media attention over the years about whether or not mothers should cover up in public while they’re breastfeeding.

“Our position is that we encourage mothers to do what they feel like — if you want to cover, you cover, if you don’t cover that’s okay,” said Jarry.

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include good immunity and support for the baby, it helps mothers return to pre-birth weight, added Brenda Melenchenko, a lactation consultant in Smithers.