New Brunswick

Breastfeeding challenge: nurse in public to fight the stigma

Mothers in Dieppe are fighting the stigma of breastfeeding in public today by taking part in an international breastfeeding challenge.

Moms in Dieppe are nursing at the mall to try to normalize breastfeeding in public

Nicole Theriault, a mother of two, said she normally feels uncomfortable breastfeeding in public but wants it to be normalized. (Submitted by Nicole Theriault)

Mothers in Dieppe are fighting the stigma of breastfeeding in public today by taking part in an international breastfeeding challenge.

Today at 11 a.m. in CF Champlain Place, moms will nurse their babies in an effort to normalize breastfeeding in public and try to beat other cities in a friendly competition over the most babies latched on at one time.

The Quintessence Foundation, which focuses on breastfeeding education, has been organizing "latch on" events for 17 years in partnership with family centres across the globe.

Natalie Leslie is a prenatal and postnatal co-ordinator at the Early Childhood Family Resource Centre of Westmorland-Albert and has been organizing the event in Dieppe for the past three years.

She offers free community programs for expecting and new mothers and facilitates a mothers' mental health group and other parenting programs.

She said the event is meant to "encourage moms to feed their babies wherever they are whenever their baby is hungry."

Nicole Theriault is currently breastfeeding her 10½​-month-old baby and is a former organizer of the Quintessence breastfeeding challenge. She participated for the first time in 2015, when she was breastfeeding her first child.

Theriault said she thinks moms feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because they fear being judged. (Submitted by Nicole Theriault)

"I didn't feel self-conscious at all, you look around and everybody's doing it it's like ah, it's so freeing," Theriault said.

But she usually feels uncomfortable breastfeeding in public and prefers to seek out a more private place to nurse, like her car.

"I just feel uncomfortable because I do feel it's not accepted. I don't feel comfortable making other people uncomfortable."

Theriault said she thinks a lot of the stigma comes from moms fearing they will be judged.

"I want it to be normalized, and I would like to do it anywhere but at the same time i feel self conscious."

In her experience, she said, a younger generation is much more tolerant of moms who breastfeed in public.

Her own mother never breastfed, which makes her think it wasn't as common a generation ago.

"She tried and she didn't want to, so she doesn't get it."

While moms who do breastfeed in public may attract unwanted attention and be asked to leave or cover up, Theriault said moms who don't breastfeed also experience shame.

"Some moms who couldn't breastfeed and they are feeding formula to their baby, they feel guilty, and it shouldn't be like that."

While events like the Quintessence breastfeeding challenge help normalize breasting in public, there's still a long way to go.

"It would take a lot of moms breastfeeding everywhere before it really feels normal to see it."