Published Date Written by Craig LyonsA newly launched education and support campaign has a message for Portland's nursing mothers: "Whenever, wherever."
The "Whenever Wherever — We All Benefit" campaign was rolled out on Wednesday to promote a comfortable environment for breast-feeding mothers and to encourage people to become more comfortable with nursing in the workplace and public spaces. The campaign was launched through a partnership with the Portland Public Health Division, the Opportunity Alliance and Healthy Maine Partnerships of Southern Maine.
As a part of the campaign, the organizers are partnering with businesses to place decals in their buildings, train employees about how to handle breast-feeding complaints and support nursing mothers in open and public spaces. Aside from the organizations that are spearheading the campaign, Casco Bay Lines, Rosemont Market on Munjoy Hill and Local Sprouts have joined the effort.
Zoe Miller, of Opportunity Alliance, said studies have shown health benefits associated with breast-feeding, though most mothers stop after six months as they begin to resume their day-to-day lives of work and running errands.
Miller said as new mothers are transitioning back into the community after giving birth, the choice to continue breast-feeding gets tough because of the attitude about nursing in the workplace and in public. She said some women stay at home or breast-feed in their cars rather than face the attitude of the general public.
The campaign is not about promoting breast-feeding, according to Miller, but making people feel more comfortable and supported in their community.
"All it takes is a friendly, supportive attitude," she said.
Rebecca Flaherty said she recalls the first time she was breast-feeding in public and she was nervous and worried that people would make comments to her. She said an older woman approached her and told her she supported her choice.
"That gives you the confidence to continue with breast feeding," she said.
Flaherty said she arranges her day so she goes places where she feels comfortable breast-feeding and picks shopping centers and stores that are welcoming and accommodating to nursing mothers. She said there's a whole group of women who pick stores and other places to go based on whether it's a place that's supportive of nursing mothers.
"It is important for the community to be supportive of local families and their efforts to breast-feed," she said.
Mayor Michael Brennan said Portland was recently named the third best city in the country by "Parenting Magazine," and he thinks the community should show that it's welcoming to mothers and families.
Brennan said he knows that public nursing makes some people uncomfortable but it's important to move beyond the discomfort to be supportive of local mothers.
Brennan said the campaign is as much about making nursing mothers feel comfortable breast-feeding as it is getting members of the public to become more understanding and accepting of the practice.
"We want to welcome mothers who are nursing," he said.
At Casco Bay Lines, Operations Manager Nick Mavodones said the ferry line is proud to support the campaign because it shows the company's support for both its employees and passengers who are breast-feeding.
For working mothers, Mavodones said Casco Bay Lines is dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable environment for women who are nursing in the workplace. He said it creates a better work environment and leads to better health for the baby.
Likewise, Mavodones said as a provider of public transportation, the company sees that it's important for passengers to be in a supportive place that makes them feel comfortable nursing.