At 10:30 a.m. at 590 locations spread across 23 countries, mothers around the world breastfed their children in an attempt to break a simultaneous breastfeeding record while also raising awareness about the importance of the practice.
Heralded as the Big Latch On, the event began Friday morning and will continue into Saturday as each time zone joins in.
All locations have been registered through the Latch On website, and will have officials looking on to record the number of mothers. Last year, 5,687 mothers participated, but this year, organizers will need more than 9,826 to break the record set in 2010.
The Big Latch On was founded by the New Zealand non-profit Women's Health Action in 2005 as part of World Breastfeeding Week, which is held each year during the first week of August.
According to the World Health Organization, breasteeding is one of the most effective ways to keep babies healthy, and if properly implemented, it could save about "a million lives." However, worldwide "less than 40 percent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed."
A 2010 article in the journal Pediatrics estimated that less-than-optimal breastfeeding rates among American mothers added $13 billion to medical costs in the U.S.
Part of the goal of the Big Latch On event is to foster a sense of community and solidarity among fellow breastfeeding mothers, while also also making breastfeeding a normal part of the "day-to-day life" at a community level.
But in its May report on global motherhood, Save the Children ranked the U.S. last out of 36 industrialized countries in its support of breastfeeding. According the Christian Science Monitor, a lack of paid maternity leave and the prevalence of formula marketing contributed to the low ranking.
Breastfeeding advocates in the U.S. have had a busy year so far, with women across the country have organizing nurse-ins and community breastfeeding days to protest negative publicity, corporate policy or restrictive state laws.
Rachel Papantonakis has been planning her own Breastfeeding Week event since January. Though the Washington, D.C.-based mother of two was never publicly criticized for choosing to breastfeed in public, she decided to take a stand this January after seeing what she described as "too many stories about women being told they can't feed their babies in places where they are legally allowed to do so."
Papantonakis's Facebook page for "The Great Nurse-In," which was held Friday on the West Lawon the Capital building, has more than 2,600 likes.
Stories of women who have faced negative comments while breastfeeding are relatively easy to find.
In February, a Georgia mother said she was forced out of her church for breastfeeding. Nirvana Jennette told WSAV that her past accused her of lewd behavior, and compared her actions to those of a stripper. In response, Jennette staged a "Georgia Statewide Nurse-In" at the Woodbine Courthouse.
Also in February, a group of mothers angered by Facebook's image decency policy held a nurse-in in front of the social media company's headquarters. The protest's leader, Emma Kwasnica is a breastfeeding advocate and mother of three who has posted more 200 photos of herself nursing on her Facebook profile, resulting in at least five suspensions.
More recently, Los Angeles mother Jamie Grumet, 26, sparked a national debate about both breastfeeding and prolonged attachment parenting when she appeared on the cover of Time magazine breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, Aram.
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