Global event promotes breastfeeding
McALLEN — Holding their babies to their breasts, 30 local mothers gathered at the McAllen Public Library’s Children’s Department, ready to nurse their children in unison with the world-wide initiative, the Global Big Latch On.
Over the span of a minute, from 10:30 a.m. to 10:31 a.m. on Saturday, depending on the time zone, mothers in registered locations around the world breastfed as a community to promote the health of women and children.
Wearing a shirt reading “Eat Local” on the front and “I breastfeed in public but feel free to eat YOUR lunch in the restroom,” Emma Zarate breastfed her daughter Enola.
The expecting mother said she has nourished her 18-month-old daughter since her birth and plans on carrying on the same routine when her son is born in December.
“Breastfeeding has been around for thousands of years and up until recently, people have been shaming women,” the 25-year-old Zarate said. “We as a society have sexualized breasts, and that’s not what they’re for.”
Because of that, she said she felt tension when initially nursing her daughter in public.
“At first, it was not overwhelming but I remember being kind of self-conscious and getting sweaty and just thinking, ‘Be calm. It’s normal,’” Zarate said. “I felt relieved because I was already getting engorged. Nobody had any negative remarks or anything and it was good.”
Even if others had reacted negatively to her breastfeeding, Zarate knew her rights.
“It’s natural, it’s normal and we’re protected by the law,” she said.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 165 Section 165.002, “A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.”
Wearing a similar shirt, Jessica Garza also exercised her right to breastfeed in a public space when feeding her two-month-old son, Elioenai.
“It’s the best for him,” the Mission native said. “All the nutrients and antibodies are the best, and since I can, I do (breastfeed). It’s the best type of nutrition he can get.”
The 32-year-old woman said she started breastfeeding when her 3-year-old daughter was born and although she’s practiced, it can still prove difficult at times.
“It’s very time consuming depending on your baby and if they latch on right,” she said. “Sometimes it causes problems on your breasts. It is difficult, it’s a challenge but it’s worth it.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states breastfeeding decreases a child’s risk of having asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome among other diseases.
Not only did Garza attend the event to partake in the sisterhood of the Global Big Latch On, but to also to encourage others to feel at ease when nurturing their children.
“Just do what’s comfortable,” the mother of two said. “You don’t have to go out there and whip out a boob. If you want to do it with a cover, that’s great — if you don’t, that’s fine. Just feel comfortable in what you’re doing because once you start feeling uncomfortable, then it just causes problems for your baby.”
She said she found that the Big Latch On brings awareness to breastfeeding while also reassuring other mothers that might not be completely comfortable with the idea of nursing their children in public.
“If you’re thinking about breastfeeding, go for it,” Garza said. “Just try it; believe in yourself and don’t get discouraged. If you have to supplement with formula, that’s great too, but don’t give up on yourself. Your body knows what to do, and it’s definitely worth it.”