Breastfeeding week : The Big Latch On!

  • Tariana Turia

I was delighted to be invited to the Big Latch on 2011.

It is a wonderful thought that today we are part of a global campaign to celebrate breastfeeding.  

I will be carefully watching the clock to ensure that all of us that can are all set to go to contribute to the world record for the most women breastfeeding simultaneously at 10.30am today!

Apparently last year, across the globe, more than 800,000 women took party in the Big Latch On.  A record 1514 babies were latched on and breastfed throughout New Zealand at the same time as their brothers and sisters across the world.  

It is just such a great idea and I really congratulate Women’s Health Action in Aotearoa for their role in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding by contributing to this event.

Breastfeeding is associated with such a beautiful part of my life – a glorious memory that is triggered every time I see a mum feeding her baby.

To feed and nurture your young babe is an amazing opportunity for bonding, for dreaming, for imagining all of the possibilities you wish for your child.

I have to admit, that it is primarily because of the warmth and the strength of the attachment process that I have been a really big advocate of breast-feeding right across my whanau.

But what’s even better about breast-feeding is knowing that what feels so good, really is so good in so many ways.

Breast-feeding provides babies with the optimum nutrition for the beginning of their lives. 

Health advisors tell me it protects against infectious disease; and it reduces the risk of chronic disease such as obesity and cardio-vascular disease.  

In fact there’s even research telling us that breast-feeding has a role in protecting women against some forms of breast cancer.

It is because of this body of knowledge that the Ministry of Health has a policy that we should encourage all Mums to ensure their babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, if at all possible.

They’ve also been trying to promote the value of breastfeeding through what is called the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative – encouraging all maternity facilities to follow the World Health Organisation/UNICEF ‘Ten steps to successful breastfeeding’.

This is fantastic – but what is even more magical is the initiative being pioneered today – the Big Latch on.

For what such a large-scale, all-out, worldwide promotion of breastfeeding does, is to showcase the work of midwives and well child tamariki ora nurses; it reinforces the efforts of lactation consultant services and most of all it celebrates our mothers.

The moment a child is born, a mother is born too.

And in that moment, an intimate basis for a relationship is established.

We have a whakatauaki which encapsulates this experience

He aroha whaereere, he potiki piri poho
A mother’s love; a breast-clinging child

Because of a mother’s fulsome love for her child, the child clings to her.  It is a love which means a mother treasures her children in the most precious way.  She would rather suffer herself than see her child in any form of pain.

And so today I celebrate all of the mothers here – I celebrate our children – including my daughter Lisa whom I wanted to share this day with today.

They say that another aspect of being a mother is learning about strengths you didn't know you had, and dealing with fears you didn't know existed.

But being a mother is also about being surrounded by the love of whanau  - contributing to whanau ora – taking up the responsibility for all of our whanau to be well, to be healthy, to be strong.

So finally today, as we lead up to the Big Latch On, I want to praise all of our whanau, who play such a vital role in supporting women to breastfeed.  

Our aunties, daddies, our nannies, our cousins, are also really important in providing the right environment to encourage women to continue to feed their babies until six months of age and beyond.

Let’s celebrate whanau – and let’s latch on.