Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association held their yearly Big Latch last Saturday 3rd August at Casemates.

It is an international event that celebrates World Breastfeeding Week, where mothers in Gibraltar join others from thousands of locations around the world to normalise breastfeeding in public and celebrate another year of breastfeeding their babies.

Tamsin Suarez founder and chair of the Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association said, “We are very proud of our achievements normalising breastfeeding and providing support to breastfeeding families. The event is always popular amongst the local breastfeeding community and it is lovely to see new babies joining us, those who have attended in previous years and return to support and those who return breastfeeding a second or third child. They are always very proud to be able to attend and mark their feeding goals.

In their statement, the GBA explain that the benefits of breastfeeding are widely known and 'babies who are breastfed achieve a remarkable array of benefits including fewer omissions to hospital for tummy and ear infections, less chance of infections, obesity, diabetes and in the longer term less chance of cancers, heart disease and other conditions.' The statement continues 'It is the beginning of a healthy lifestyle. Mothers who have breastfed, have a reduced chance of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and it helps their bodies go back to a pre pregnancy state quicker using 500 extra calories a day.'

'World Breastfeeding Week is not just for mothers who met their breastfeeding goals, although their achievements can be remarkable and hard won. World breastfeeding week should be celebrated by every mother who ever wanted to breastfeed however long she did so be it a day, a week or a month. Breastfeeding can be hard and it can be very painful if you really wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t achieve this for whatever reason. World Breastfeeding Week and the celebration around it by isn’t about undermining those feelings, or making you feel guilty, it is acknowledging them and acknowledging that women and mothers and even the babies themselves deserve better. Your feelings matter too. In fact many of those who are celebrating with us are experiencing those challenges you faced too.'

'This part of breastfeeding is important and maybe one of the most important parts of World Breastfeeding Week.

'One of the main goals of the Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association, charity number 260, is to support those who wish to breastfeed to achieve their goals.

'In Gibraltar, as our peers in UK, breastfeeding rates are very low. 70% of women start out wishing to breastfeed and this drops to 40% after day 10. That means 30% of women who wanted to breastfeed have already been let down. Despite international bodies recognising that the benefits of breastfeeding last as long as the feeding occurs and the World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding for at least two years and beyond if mutually desired by both mum and baby, only 4% of mothers are still breastfeeding at 6 months. (UK statistics as there is no local data captured).

'In other words, as a society, we inform mothers of all the benefits of breastfeeding, and then fail to provide adequate help and support for mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals. 80% of mothers who stop breastfeeding in the early days say they would've liked to continue, and felt they could've continued with better support (according to Public Health England). Locally hundreds of mothers a year are being let down. Given the very real grief many mothers feel at having to stop breastfeeding and the health and psychological effect that this has, we are also letting down women’s health goals in a big way.  Post natal depression is experienced by 30% of mums and the way breastfeeding is handled by society only compounds this.

'Not only are women not receiving adequate management to support them to feed one of the most damaging results when breastfeeding doesn’t go to plan is lack of emotional support. There is nothing to feel guilty about that breastfeeding didn’t go to plan. You did the best that you could given the circumstances and that makes you an amazing mother. Be kind to yourself and move on to a different path than envisaged with pride that you did your best.

'Support is 80 % of success in breastfeeding. In nations where time and money is invested into breastfeeding 95% of mothers feed longer term successfully. Hurdles are more easily overcome and misconceptions are resolved.  The Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association provides this with meet ups, groups, individual care and through one to one support and over the phone. We are also campaigning for a lactation consultant and consistent breastfeeding training for health professionals that deal with new mums. It is not good enough to manage breastfeeding challenges by suggesting top ups rather than exhausting all the other better options available. There is almost always a solution to breastfeeding problems and investigations should be done to look for underlying health problems.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      'Why World Breastfeeding Week is important is because every mother who ever wanted to breastfeed her baby, for an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or longer deserves adequate help and support to meet that goal. The mothers who don't meet that goal for whatever reason, should also be supported and have the right to adequate emotional support to heal from that. It hurts this week when you didn't get the support that you deserved, but the aim of this week, the reason we go out and feed in public, celebrate events and write how proud we are on social media and in publications is to make sure every mother gets the practical and emotional support she deserves. 

'Breastfeeding shaming comes from unexpected places. Breastfeeding shaming is those family members who ask you when you will stop feeding, how long will you be breastfeeding for or if they can give the baby a bottle. Breastfeeding shaming is those who say that posts celebrating those who are feeding make them feel bad. Breastfeeding shaming is the doctor or health professional that tells you to top up or to stop breastfeeding for reasons that could be avoided because they don’t have the training to support you. Breastfeeding shaming is those who sexualise breasts and feel that their perceptions of the female body are more important than that the baby eats. Breastfeeding shaming is the partner who says that your breasts are theirs alone. Breastfeeding shaming is the mother who encourages others to use the bottle because she feels shamed for not continuing herself.

'Breastfeeding shaming undermines the confidence of that mother who hasn’t slept, who has doubted herself and her abilities or is experience a hiccup in her breastfeeding journey. Please think before you comment as it has the potential to affect her mental health in the long term and undermines the continued breastfeeding relationship.  She may nod and smile and then she may go home and cry for hours or even stop breastfeeding altogether.

'Let us do what we do best as a community and support and encourage the diversity in breastfeeding relationships, celebrate motherhood and parenting to the best of our abilities and demand the support that breastfeeding families deserve.

The Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association urge the public to join them in positively supporting the achievements of the breastfeeding family throughout World Breastfeeding Week, the Breastfeeding month of August and individually throughout the year. "Please be reminded that women cannot be discriminated for breastfeeding in any public place due to the recent change in the Equality Act 2010 and look out for our Breastfeeding Friendly Scheme logo on door and windows, where local businesses have signed up to provide a safe, comfortable and supportive environment to all breastfeeding families in Gibraltar."

The Gibraltar Breastfeeding Association also provide information leaflets for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, leaflets for fathers and leaflets for grandparents in support. There is also a support line on 54014517.