By BMSG Editorial Team
On 3 August this year, the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group (Singapore) (BMSG) held its annual Big Latch On event together with its co-organiser, the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore) (ABAS). This was in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated during the first week of August every year. It was the first time that BMSG had collaborated with ActiveSG, a movement in Singapore which encourages an active and healthy lifestyle, as part of its National Day celebrations in the heartlands.
Part of the Global Big Latch On
The Big Latch On (BLO) is BMSG’s flagship event but is also part of the Global BLO, a not-for-profit movement founded in New Zealand which rallies breastfeeding mothers and communities all over the world to come together every year. Participants who have registered their events gather on any day between 3 to 5 August in similar meetups to BMSG’s BLO. For just one minute or so, mothers are encouraged to either latch their babies to their breasts, pump or feed their babies with breastmilk in any method during the synchronised latching segment. The number of women who attend the event is then added and pooled together with numbers from other venues to create a record for the year. This is also the tenth year anniversary of the BLO since it first started out in New Zealand. The Global BLO has turned into a global event that breastfeeding mothers and advocates look forward to every year.
First Time in the Heartlands
BMSG has held its BLO events in many places all over Singapore including Hong Lim Park, Emily Hill, and National University Hospital just last year. This year, the BLO was held on the compounds of SKH Campus located at Sengkang General Hospital together with other ActiveSG events.
Held picnic-style, attendees sat around in the allocated compound at the venue on mats sponsored by ABAS. The mats were included in the goodie bags which attendees received during registration. It was heartwarming to see families, including fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, chilling and gathering together while mothers breastfed their babies. This truly contributed to normalizing breastfeeding in a public setting!
Conducting in the heartland also made it easier for mothers and their families to travel to the event. Amirah Diyana Kemat, a mother of a two year-old toddler, who is currently back in Singapore for a visit, felt encouraged to attend the BLO since the event was so near her parents’ home. “I attended the BLO because I wanted to feel a sense of solidarity with other mothers,” said Amirah, who lives overseas with her husband.
BMSG EXCO member and counsellor Siti Nuraidah, who led the organising committee for the BLO, agrees that attending the event was important for parents to see that there is a community that backs their decision to breastfeed. “When organizing the event, the team had hoped for parents to come together to not only show their support for breastfeeding but to also know that there is a community of support for them.” Siti also added that partnering other organisations helped to normalize breastfeeding: “We also partnered various organizations to change their perspective on breastfeeding and garner their support.”
This year also made headlines for BMSG as it was one of the largest turnouts for our events. Over 250 people were present at the event! We were also honoured to have Mdm Rahayu Mahzam, Member-of-Parliament and Advisor to Bukit Batok East GRC, to be our Guest-of-Honour. This was also Mdm Rahayu’s second time in 2 years to grace our BLO and we are extremely heartened by her presence and support for breastfeeding mothers.
We were also honoured to have celebrity mummy Joanne-Marie Sim hosting our BLO event despite being close to 27 weeks of pregnancy, expecting her third child. Joanne-Marie has also been a breastfeeding mother to her two older children so her presence made it all the more special!
We are proud to announce that 48 mothers had latched their babies, with one mother successfully tandem nursing her toddler and baby during the BLO. This also included one mother who pumped during the segment. On a global scale, BMSG’s BLO event was one of 814 events held in 28 countries. Breaking down the numbers, around the world:
- 58,000 people came together to support breastfeeding (this includes spouses, partners, family members, breastfeeding advocates and volunteers)
- 18,414 breastfeeding parents attended events in their communities and virtually through social media
- 18,500 children latched and were breastfed
Joanna Edwards, the organiser of the Global BLO, commented in a press release:
“This year was our milestone tenth anniversary year and as in every year prior, this event continues to inspire me as it supports more families each year and nurtures lasting cultural change. All the hosts who arranged an event in their community have my complete gratitude and I am so happy to have their support: the Global Big Latch On would not work without them. This event is about normalizing breastfeeding journeys, however they look and that’s often not the same for everyone. Just a quick look on our social media feeds over this World Breastfeeding Week 2019 shows this.”
JoBeth Williams, who is also a BMSG staff and counsellor, was the only mother who pumped during the BLO. JoBeth, who is still nursing her toddler, used a Haakaa to express her milk on that day. “I was glad to be able to contribute and do my part for the BLO even though my baby was not able to attend with me that day. I hope that we can promote next year’s event to more pumping moms and help to normalize pumping in public as well!”
Apart from the synchronized latching and pumping segment, as part of the Active SG celebrations, we also held a babywearing zumba segment which was led by the amazing (pregnant!) team from Nawal Haddad Fitness. The zumba was definitely the crowd’s favorite, seeing how mothers were energetically swaying with their babies safely attached to them in babywearing gear, dancing their stress and worries away – it was lovely to see our mothers letting their hair down while daddies and other family members cheered them on.
Safety remains our top concern and we appreciated the presence of our partner for the day, Warabee, a certified babywearing consultancy, to check on our mums who participated in the zumba activity that day. We were also heartened that one daddy joined the zumba segment too!
“It was amazing to see the whole “village” made up of parents and their children coming together and having a good time! Their excitement was apparent especially during the Babywearing Zumba segment!” added Siti.
Other Happenings at the BLO
Knowing that families were coming together, we knew that it was an opportunity to educate families and attendees on how they can support breastfeeding mothers. We were glad to have included the following segments in raising awareness on breastfeeding to families and children:
Talk by ABAS: Empowering Mothers, Enabling Breastfeeding
Vice-Chairperson of ABAS, Dr Mythili Pandi, talked about how empowering mothers is a key factor to breastfeeding success in families in her talk at the beginning of the BLO event.
While mothers in the past had a big community or village to support them especially after they had given birth, the reality of the world today is that mothers are living separately from their extended families. As such, they struggle with breastfeeding and managing other motherly duties. As they had grown up not being normalized by breastfeeding, it becomes something that is foreign to them.
Mothers then have to juggle between the tasks of mothering as well as going back to the workforce, a possible threat to breastfeeding especially if mothers are not prepared and are faced with unsupportive or misinformed management.
There are plenty of myths that have marred the reputation of breastfeeding and we thought a breastfeeding quiz would be a great opportunity for some breastfeeding education for the masses. What’s more, with over 20 sponsored prizes to be won, it was lovely to see very eager participants during the quiz. Our host, Joanne-Marie, made the quiz fun by also receiving responses from daddies – one mummy even kissed her hubby for winning her a much-coveted prize 😀
Far’ain Jaafar, who is our volunteer counsellor and EXCO member, is an avid children’s book fan. Being a mum to 2 gorgeous children, she exposed her children very early to reading. We invited Far’ain to share some interesting reads to the older children attending the BLO and she read aloud a few stories centred on the theme of breastfeeding for children. And the children loved it – judging by their eager faces and bright-eyed expressions. There is nothing quite like sharing the love for breastfeeding with young minds.
We are glad that mothers came and enjoyed themselves, and more importantly, felt united and supported in the presence of other nursing mothers. Tina Shroff, a mother-of-two who came to the BLO and latched her one year-old baby, said that it was “incredible” to see so many mothers coming together. “The fact that so many mummies were coming together to get their babies to latch on collectively and be a part of such an amazing community is what inspired me to be a part of this lovely event,” said Tina, who also happens to be a counsellor with the BMSG.
That is exactly what the intent of the founders of the BLO movement and we hope that we can continue to provide this opportunity for breastfeeding mothers and their family members to come together again for next year’s BLO.
Thank you to our partners and sponsors:
- To all BMSG volunteers, EXCO members and staff for rallying together on the big day
- Our co-organisers ABAS for their generous sponsorship of the participant goodie bags
- ActiveSG for their collaboration and support
- SKH Campus & Sengkang General Hospital for the venue sponsorship
- Nawal Haddad Fitness for their energetic and amazing babywearing zumba session
- Warabee for their assistance in checking mothers in their babywearing gear for the zumba segment
- Host Joanne-Marie Sim for her gracious presence at the event
- Our talented photographer Aditi from Aditi Chivate Photography
- Our generous prize and voucher sponsors:
Click here to view our official photographs. Till BLO 2020!