Show of Breasts Promotes Public Awareness

Monday, July 26 2010

Show of Breasts Promotes Public Awareness

By Cybele Sack

A group of breastfeeding women occupied the Church of Holy Trinity on the morning of Saturday, October 4 to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.

The twenty four women who showed up at the Trinity Square location near the Eaton Centre were participating in the 3 annual North American Breastfeeding Challenge, a contest to recognize the city and region with the greatest number of women breastfeeding together at 11 a.m.

The Breastfeeding Challenge was organized by INFACT Canada in partnership with the Quintessence Foundation, to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula.

This is the first year that Toronto participated in the competition and we lost. Of the 115 cities taking part, Toronto was tied for 32nd place with Belleville, Ontario. Victoria, with 112 mothers, had the most participants.

Ontario, with 23 participating sites and 428 participating mothers, placed second to B.C. when compared to all provinces, territories and American states.


Breastfed babies are generally healthier and more intelligent than babies that have been fed formula, INFACT director Elisabeth Sterken said. Breastfeeding mothers also have a lower risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer.

Many doctors encourage mothers who have trouble breastfeeding to use formula. INFACT attributes this to the formula lobby, which provides free samples and funding to hospitals that promote formula use. According to INFACT, mothers who start on formula in the hospital are more likely to continue to use it at home.

Breastfeeding problems can be solved by other means. Several mothers who came to the Breastfeeding Challenge overcame low and high milk volume. Vanessa Bright couldn’t produce enough milk for the first three days to feed her son Garrett. She used a combination of herbs (fenugreek and blessed thistle) to stimulate production. Six months later, she is still breastfeeding.

Her friend Edlyn Teske, who sat beside her on a wooden pew at Saturday’s event, had the opposite problem. Her breasts produce so much milk that her son Felix used to gag. She learned to pump one breast while her son feeds on the other, switching pump and baby periodically. Milk no longer shoots into his mouth with such force.

In the church, some mothers prepared their children for nursing near the altar, while others sat on the floor in front of the pews with their babies on their laps. Older children ran, wobbled and rolled around in front of them. A little boy, about 3 years old, lay face up across his mother’s legs, sobbing with cries for attention. Another baby, full with milk, fell fast asleep in his mother’s arms.

Michele Landsberg was happy to see "so many bright faces and happy smiles. It’s just delectable," she said. The Toronto Star columnist arrived at the event with her daughter and grandson. Landsberg is dismayed by how breastfeeding organizations are played off against women who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. She says the breastfeeding movement is all about the need for support for all women, regardless of their choice.

Landsberg’s daughter, Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, understands the need for support. She struggled to find a place for new mothers at her last workplace, the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Outside of work, she was frequently stigmatized. "If you breastfeed in a store, people look at you askance. If you breastfeed in a restaurant, people look nervous. If you breastfeed on a park bench, some people give you a disgusted face," she said. On one occasion, Landsberg-Lewis was breastfeeding in a restaurant when a woman approached her and told her to go to the bathroom.

Landsberg-Lewis recently moved to Toronto to run the Stephen Lewis Foundation, but she has not yet found complete acceptance. She is still breastfeeding her son Zev, who is now 18 months old. She said that people became uncomfortable with her breastfeeding once her son began to ask for her breasts. "Titty, please," Zev pipes up as he requests his meal. "Other titty," he says soon after. Occasionally, Landsberg-Lewis’s son sings a song, "Titty, titty, titty, titty…" to a melody, which she calls his "Ode to Titty." Zev’s innocent charm doesn’t threaten his mother. Michele Landsberg, the proud grandma, is angered by how "people put a sexual context on your breasts."

Landsberg-Lewis is not the only one at the event who is breastfeeding an older infant. Elizabeth Chan didn’t know about breastfeeding and its advantages when she had her first two children in Taiwan. After their birth, she sent them to live with her parents in India while she stayed in Taiwan to work. When Chan came to Canada with her two children and heard other mothers talk about breastfeeding, she researched it and decided to try it the next time she was pregnant. She breastfed her third child, a daughter, for about eight months. She is now breastfeeding her youngest son Jonathan at 23 months. She has noticed that the children she breastfed had fewer fevers than those her parents raised on formula. Her son Jonathan is the healthiest of the bunch.



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