Sudbury·Photos

Life-size cutouts of breastfeeding mothers showing up in Timmins, Ont.

A northern Ontario public health nurse is using a giant aluminium cutout of a breastfeeding mom to get locals accustomed to seeing a woman feeding her baby in public.

Four local women pose for life-size images that are displayed in businesses, restaurants, government offices

A cutout of Kate Durst and her 2-year-old son Bonnar. Only about 60 per cent of new moms in northern Ontario end up breastfeeding, in part, the health unit says, because they don't feel comfortable doing so in public. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

A new project in northern Ontario is using a unique approach to make breastfeeding in public more acceptable.

The local health unit in Timmins, Ont. has created life-size metal cutouts featuring local mothers breastfeeding their infants and placed them all around the city for people to see. 

"We want mothers to be fully aware of their right to breastfeed in public," said Porcupine Health Unit nurse Meagan Potvin.

"That means being able to breastfeed anywhere, anytime, without being asked to cover up," she said.

Potvin said she hopes setting up the life-size images will be a bit of a shock and conversation starter in a community where breastfeeding in public can still be looked down on.

Life-size cutouts of Timmins mothers and their infants: Amber and Summer McComb; Kate and Bonnar Durst; Holly and Lincoln Curtis; and Laurissa and Winter Crocetti. The cutouts are part of a public education campaign to help normalize breastfeeding in public. (Porcupine Health Unit)

Only 60 per cent of new mothers breastfeed

Statistics show that women in northern Ontario are the least likely to want to breastfeed in the entire province. Only about 60 per cent of new moms in the region end up doing it.

Potvin said some mothers who do start breastfeeding their newborns stop after just the first few weeks. She said it's in part because moms still don't feel comfortable doing so in public.

"There's a bit of misconception in the community, that when [women are] breastfeeding, we see it all. And that really is not the case for most mothers," she said.

The life-size cutouts all feature local mothers feeding their children aged 7 months to 2 years old. The plan is to set them up around local businesses, restaurants, and government buildings.

Holly Curtis and her son Lincoln pose next to a metal version of themselves. (Porcupine Health Unit)

'I'm afraid to breastfeed in public'

Timmins mother Laurissa Crocetti posed for one of the cutouts while breastfeeding her ninth-month-old daughter Winter.

"It's going to definitely open people's minds to breastfeeding and how normal it is," she said.

Crocetti said while it feels weird to see a picture of herself on display, she hopes it will make her more comfortable too.

"There's sometimes where I'm afraid to breastfeed in public, because I'm afraid of what people will say. When I'm at the mall, I'll go into the breastfeeding room at Sears," she said.

"Why should we be ashamed to go into the bathroom or cover up if it's a natural thing to do?"

The health unit said it hopes to take the giant cutouts on tour to other communities across the region. 

Laurissa and her 9-month-old Winter Crocetti check out their lifesize model. (Porcupine Health Unit)

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or marina.von.stackelberg@cbc.ca

With files from Jean-Loup Doudard

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