On Saturday, August 6, 2016, I once again was able to participate in the global Big Latch On event. My first experience with the Big Latch On was in 2014, when the lactation consultant from the Harlan, Iowa hospital – who also was the nurse on call when my daughter was born – hosted the event. My daughter was nine months old, and even though I always knew I wanted to breastfeed, I didn’t realize how passionate I would become about it (or birth!) until I became a mom. So passionate, in fact, that I decided to host my OWN Latch On the next year (which I blogged about here). 2016 marked my second year of hosting a latch on, my third year of breastfeeding, and my first year of tandem nursing as I was now breastfeeding not only my two and a half year old, but also her three month old sister.
This year came with some new challenges, as well as more excitement! Registration opened in April, and soon after, I gave birth to my second child. I hate to admit that I had some big aspirations for the summer. I had hoped that since I had already gone through it once, I would adjust quickly and would be able to get “more done”. I imagined everyday stroller walks, fishing, picnics, gardening…. yeah, not so much. Adjusting to a second child? Is hard. It is wonderful, but at the same time, those first couple of months were rough. My sanity only held on because God threw me a bone and created my newborn with the ability to sleep well at night (something my toddler did not – and still usually does not – do!). Needless to say, I had to realize my limits and, while this year’s Latch On definitely grew from last year, it was not the over-the-top festival that I had imagined. Which was probably a good thing!
One of the most exciting things about planning a Latch On is connecting with sponsors, both big and small. I was extremely excited to have some companies return for a second year, including one of my favorite maternity clothing companies, Momzelle. I was also so very blessed to hook up with several new sponsors, like the small Etsy shop Blue Bird Co, who crochets the most adorable baby toys! Probably the most popular sponsors we have had are the galactagogue “milk supply boosting” products who always provide the most delicious samples, including cookies (from the Bent Elbow Shop, a second year sponsor), granola (from The Let Down Project), and chai tea (from Mrs. Patels). Not going to lie: I’m always hoping we have an extra goody bag so I can try some of the snacks out myself – not that I need any help in that regard!
My biggest goal for this year’s Latch On was to make it more fun and personal. It was so amazing to see all these women come together last year, but I felt like I didn’t really get to connect with anyone. I was so busy planning that by the time I had relaxed, everyone was gone! So this year I had a couple ideas.
First, I wanted a good ice breaker. While chatting with Cara, the previously-mentioned lactation consultant from Harlan (who also has a new little one of her own!), we came up with the idea to bring back the old-school Bingo game with a twist: all squares were breastfeeding related! This was such a fun way to get everyone to mingle and chat as they tried to find someone who could mark off a square, ranging from “owns a nursing necklace” to “breastfeed a friend’s baby”. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to find that not only were we able to find several BINGOs, but a couple women were even able to black out their cards! It was also a great opportunity to open up a Q&A session.
My second plan for this year was to schedule several speakers throughout the day. In my mind, the Latch On has several purposes: to normalize breastfeeding in public (check!), to create bonds and support among women (check!) and, finally, to help educate women. After calling around and talking to several professionals, I was able to line up two wonderful speakers: Maison Lebeck, a local doula and overall birth enthusiast, and Dan Schumacher, a chiropractor from the Harlan area, who both did amazing jobs chatting with all the attendees. I was also blessed to have not one, but two area lactation consultants: Cara Cacy,from Harlan, and Katherine Ward Becker, who also runs a monthly breastfeeding support group in Atlantic.
Plus, cookies and kiddie face-painting. Seriously. You can’t get any better than that!
I cannot express how amazing it is to see five, ten, fifteen women gather together on the grass with their babies (of all ages!) to provide nourishment and comfort to their little ones on their breast. To be in the middle of that, to look around and see the moms smiling down, babies cooing, toddlers giggling, and knowing that – for that minute of the latch on – for that one minute, we are connected – we are friends – we are sisters… there just aren’t words.
I can so vividly recall the beginning of my breastfeeding journey: feeling unsure, inadequate, emotional, embarrassed, insecure, worried, judged.. I probably texted Cara about a dozen times a day with questions or just to feel reassured. They say breastfeeding is easier, and it is, in a way. No bottles to make, nothing to measure, nothing to buy or cart around. But in another way, it is so much harder, too. Getting the latch right, worried if baby is getting enough, feeling awkward in public, randomly leaking milk through your shirt, worrying if you are making enough, worrying that you are making too much, afraid something in your diet is making your baby gassy or fussy, terrified of mastitis and cracked nipples and saggy boobs – it’s all that too. Which is why events like this, like the Latch On, are so important. Like I said before, it’s about educating women. Empowering women. Encouraging women. Letting them know that they aren’t alone – that they don’t have to be alone.
This year, we had a total of 18 nursing mothers and children. (Unfortunately, my toddler was too busy running around like a madwoman to have any interest in nursing, so it was just me and Peanut.) A total of 29 adults and 32 children made a grand total attendance of 61, contributing to the grand total of 17,223 children breastfeed during this event all around the globe! For our second year in a little country town, I feel that is amazing. I got to meet, talk to, and work alongside some exceptional women. I am so blessed and honored for all the support we have had and, hopefully, continue to have, as I plan to keep hosting as long as there are women who need this, who want this.
Special Thank Yous to:
Emily Brown – who designed our flyers, created our BINGO cards, and overall offered herself for whatever needed to be done. Your willingness to serve was invaluable to this overworked mama!
Elizabeth Ewoldt – who showed up early and took charge when I was running around getting last minute prep work done, manning the registration table and pretty much directing traffic where it needed to go. You seriously just rock.
Cara Cacy – who put up with my numerous texts, helped me spitball ideas, came up with some wonderful connections, and stayed and chatted long after everyone else was gone. Girls’ day soon?
Joyce Hartsell – who made some ah-maz-ing bars and cookies for all the hungry milk-producing mamas and rugrats. (And who I am still convincing needs to open her own homemade dessert shop, because her cheesecakes? To die for!)
Gracie Brown – who seriously did the cutest little face paintings ever – my daughter was a tiger all day long and did not want to get into the shower for anything. She still talks about it all.the.time.
Seth – my oh-so-wonderful hubby who woke up early to sit in the park and “save” our spot, watched both girls while I set up, and then put up with me when I made him pull picnic tables out of the shelter house so I could set up AGAIN outside in the grass. Your support- not only now but for the last three years- means the world to me.
Carmen Ransom-Josefson – who, for the second year, volunteered her time and talents to photographically document our event.
My Wonderful Second Year Sponsors:
The Bent Elbow Shop
And my newest First Year (and hopefully next year) Sponsors:
Blue Bird Co
Latched On Love
Hip Baby Wrap
The Let Down Project
If you would like more information about our event or how to be involved in an event like this, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out our Facebook page (which also will have more photos!) or visit the Big Latch On website. We already have some new exciting plans in the works for next year!!