Breast-feeding event sees record numbers latch on

Yesterday's national breast-feeding event - "The Big Latch On" - was well supported in regional Otago.

Nationally, a record 1474 women took part, up from 1299 last year.

In Queenstown, 13 mothers and their babies gathered at the Wakatipu Parish Lounge at St Peter's Anglican Church, the youngest baby being Ashtyn Hunia at just 7 weeks old.

The Wakatipu event was organised by the Breast-Feeding Peer Support Group and the La Leche League.

Counsellor Catkin Bartlett said the support group comprised local mothers who had been trained to provide breast-feeding support, advice and counselling for mothers.

While there were no figures available specifically for the Wakatipu, statistics from 2008 showed 65% of Southland mothers were breast-feeding when their children were 6 weeks old, which was below the national target of 75%, but in line with the national average.

The La Leche League provided breast-feeding and mother-to-mother support, organiser Kate Atkinson said.

The group met once a month and provided mothers with the chance to talk about any issues they might be having and also ran a 24-hour helpline for anyone in need of urgent assistance.

Mrs Atkinson said both services were well used, partly because of the Wakatipu's "baby boom".

In Alexandra, 11 mothers and their babies gathered at the Central Stories Museum and Art Galley to take part.

Staging such an event at a museum helped highlight "family-friendly" public places, one of the organisers said.

The Alexandra event was organised by the Rural Otago Primary Health Organisation (PHO), the Alexandra branch of La Leche League and Charlotte Jean Maternity Hospital.

PHO health promotion co-ordinator Louise Thompson was delighted with the turnout and said it was the fourth time the event had been staged in Alexandra, but the first time using the museum as a venue.

"Central Stories is keen to promote itself as a family-friendly facility and we're happy to highlight various locations that are supportive of breast-feeding mothers," Ms Thompson.

"The more public places that support breast-feeding in the community, the better."

Alexandra mother Andrea Murphy is a "veteran" of three successive Big Latch On events, with sons Nicholas (3) and Christopher (18 months) McIntosh.

"For me, breast-feeding is a natural, instinctive process and it's obviously best from a nutritional point of view, but it goes beyond that and is almost a parenting system.

"The attachment that comes with breast-feeding is a very strong connection between you and your child."

Ms Murphy, who also works as a dairy nutritionist, said she found most places family friendly and welcoming to breast-feeding mothers.

"For example, I was speaking at a Probus meeting in Alexandra a while ago and my son needed to be fed, so I picked him up and carried on with my talk, with him latched on.

"I wasn't quite sure how that would be received, but several people came up to me afterwards to say they thought it was nice."

Wanaka Plunket hosted four mothers and four babies ranging in age from 4 months to 7 weeks for latch-on day celebrations yesterday.