By 10:30 a.m., 13 Asheville moms gathered in Carrier Park on Saturday, Aug. 2, to naturally feed their children as a part of global breastfeeding event The Big Latch On, sponsored locally by the WNC Babywearers, who work to build a friendly community in our area through safe baby-carrying, parental education and social meetups.
The global event is part of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, and according to organizer Laura Cheatham, “the main goal is to try to encourage and gain public support for breastfeeding.” And not only breastfeeding, she says, but any healthy method used to feed children — the event is designed to create a supportive, safe environment for new moms.
The first Big Latch On took place in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in 2005, and has grown to include more than 120 countries. This year, the moms are aiming to once again break the current Global Big Latch On record of 14,536 participants.
“Asheville has a really good community of nursers already,” Cheatham says. “But it’s also really important to keep that visibility of people nursing in public, to make it more widely acceptable and have people more comfortable with it in the community.
“Our culture has a problem with over-sexualizing women, [often] in advertising, but when it comes to the simple act of feeding a child, that’s not something that’s really acceptable. So it’s definitely important to try to promote that and expose people to it.”
Cheatham attended the event with her 14-month-old daughter, Calla. And with 13 participants in Asheville this year, and with several other moms, dads and children there for support, the group participated in (brief) synchronized breastfeeding (many of the children were visibly excited by the event and the older kids running around; they became distracted from breakfast). The parents then socialized while walking around the park to promote Hike It Baby, an organization that started in Portland, Ore., then expanding to Asheville and beyond. Hike It advocates the exploration of hiking trails and urban strolls for mothers and their newborns.
“It’s natural,” Cheatham says. “All mammals do it, and other mammals don’t have to cover up. And because our society is the way it is, we feel that mamas have to cover up and hide. It’s sad, because there are a lot of moms that feel that way — and I think that’s fine if they choose to do that, but I want all moms to know that it’s OK for both. Whatever is comfortable for you.”