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Portland Launches New Breastfeeding Campaign
08/01/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

"Whenever, Wherever, We All Benefit" is the name of a new campaign to support and celebrate nursing moms in the city of Portland. Organizers say when babies are breastfed, they're healthier and everyone saves money. One of the main reasons organizers cite for the need for the initiative is lack of support for nursing moms.

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Zoe Miller is part of Opportunity Alliance and Healthy Maine Partnerships, which launched the campaign with the city of Portland. Miller is also a devoted breastfeeding mom, but she said there have been times she hasn't felt accepted.

"One day I was at the Maine Mall and I sat down on the couches in the hall there and an older couple was sitting across from me and abruptly stood up and walked away," Miller said. "Now, maybe it wasn't because I was nursing, but it felt like it was."

Miller said she thinks societal discomfort with breastfeeding can be subtle, but it's enough to discourage would-be breastfeeding mothers. At a news conference kicking off the campaign, Miller said that lack of support is a major reason why the 75 percent of moms who start breastfeeding their newborns drops to just 40 percent by the time their babies arE six months old.

"So the 'Whenever, Wherever' campaign seeks to change that," she said. "We know that not all moms can or choose to breastfeed, and we would never want to make other moms feel judged. But our campaign is really not about mom's choices, it's about the rest of the community."

The campaign is distributing 'Whenever Wherever' decals and posters for businesses to display and encouraging them to train employees about how to handle complaints about mothers nursing in public. Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the campaign is good for the community in more ways than one.

"In this country, if families followed breastfeeding guidelines for the first six months, it would save 13 billion dollars in this country in medical and other costs, 13 billion dollars," Brennan said.

Those numbers come from a study in the journal Pediatrics. Breastfeeding can prevent certain illnesses and infections in babies. So far a library and three businesses have signed on to the "Whenever, Wherever" campaign, including Casco Bay Lines. Broad support across the city may not be too far away.

New York City recently took a more stringent approach to promote breastfeeding by urging hospitals to dispense formula only when medically necessary. Zoe Miller of Opportunity Alliance said the "Whenever, Wherever" campaign isn't about a mother's choice, but rather about society stepping up in support. The kick-off coincides with World Breastfeeding Week.


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