Steps away from the hubbub of the Penticton farmers’ market on Saturday, a group of mothers proudly pulled aside their tops to breastfeed their babies.
Ten moms here joined thousands around the world who did the same to help increase awareness and support for breastfeeding.
Penticton’s contingent was organized by the non-profit OK Breastfeeding Coalition, which operates as a sort of peer network for nursing mothers.
“All those moms need support in the choices they make, and if they can meet other mothers that are doing the same thing, then they’re going to be more successful in breastfeeding,” said coalition president Denise Mend.
“We know from all the research that when moms breastfeed it’s really health for the baby, it’s really healthy for the mom, and it’s really healthy for the community.”
Mend said her group’s secondary purpose is to help normalize the activity, which she noted is still controversial at times, despite it being considered a human right.
This past summer, a mall in Prince George came under fire when a security officer asked a woman to breastfeed in a washroom. The mall later issued her an apology.
“There are incidents every year where somebody who’s misinformed asks a mother to go hide to breastfeed,” said Mend. “So that’s partly why organizations like this still exist.”
Penticton mom Shalane Marischuk, 27, said she’s yet to encounter any difficulties while nursing 15-month-old daughter Stella in public.
“I’m pretty open about breastfeeding, and I’ve luckily never had anyone kind of shun me for it,” said Marischuk, a restaurant server who took part in Saturday’s event.
She noted that a seemingly permissive attitude in this part of the world may also work in her favour.
“I find that I see more moms breastfeeding in public in the Okanagan. I don’t know if I’m maybe more aware of it (here), but when I’ve gone to big cities you don’t see it as publicly,” Marischuk said.
More information about the OK Breastfeeding Coalition is available on its Facebook page.