Not very long ago, a woman was in a Morgantown business doing one of the most natural things in the world — breastfeeding her baby.
She was shaken, however, when she was not only asked to leave the establishment, but also followed outside and asked to go even further away.
Breastfeeding counselors at Monongalia County Health Department’s WIC program jumped into action and thus was born the Breastfeeding Awareness Walk.
This year, the 11th event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 1, which also happens to be the first day of both National Breastfeeding Month (www.usbreastfeeding.org/nbm) and World Breastfeeding Week (worldbreastfeedingweek.org). It is sponsored by MCHD WIC (monchd.org/wic.html) and Monongalia County Breastfeeding Task Force.
Like the name states, the walk, which takes place at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center, raises awareness about what the folks who host World Breastfeeding Week selected as this year’s theme, “Foundation of Life.”
Except it makes some humans feel uncomfortable. WIC counselors want to change that, and the Breastfeeding Awareness Walk is one method to convey to the public that not only is breastfeeding a completely natural part of the human experience, but it also provides both mother and baby with many benefits in addition to the obvious one of nutrition for the infant.
“It helps the baby’s immune system and gives them a healthier gut,” says Lynne Ryan, WIC’s breastfeeding coordinator.
For the mom, breastfeeding helps normalize her weight and the state of lactating releases hormones that are relaxing, which help her body readjust after going through a pregnancy, Ryan added.
WIC’s breastfeeding counselors talk to their pregnant clients to help them prepare for how to go about this loving task after their babies are born. WIC clients are pregnant and postpartum women and infants and children up to age 5 who meet generous income guidelines. But even women who are not WIC clients can attend free breastfeeding classes, which take place in Monongalia County on the first and third Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m. and the second Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Preparation for breastfeeding is important, Ryan noted. In addition to teaching about the actual act of getting the baby to latch onto mom’s breast and feed, Ryan and her colleagues provide handy tips and advice. That includes breastfeeding in public, because some women might feel uneasy about it, at least at first.
“It’s a learned skill, to nurse in public,” Ryan said.
It also might be helpful for nursing mothers to know that not only is it perfectly natural to breastfeed in public, it’s also state law. Legislation that went into effect June 6, 2014, affirmed a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere in public.
The Breastfeeding Awareness Walk is designed to help both mothers and expectant mothers get more comfortable with this natural way to feed and bond with a baby, as well as educate the public.
Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with a diaper derby at 5 p.m., the walk at 5:30 p.m., and refreshments and activities at 6 p.m. For more information about the MCHD WIC Breastfeeding Awareness Walk, which is free and open to the public, call 304-598-5181.