A hundred mothers gathered on Wednesday at Citadelpark in Ghent to breastfeed at the same time in an effort to break the taboo surrounding breastfeeding in public.
“Breastfeeding is something natural and normal,” Jozefien Tondeleir, the event’s organiser, told VRT.
“Breastfeeding is often seen as a private act. I don't think you should walk around with bare breasts, but it is such a natural and normal thing that it shouldn't be a taboo.”
Tondeleir recalled visiting the park a year ago and feeding her daughter there, appreciative of all the available benches.
As a photographer, she wanted to promote the normalisation of breastfeeding in a visual way, and had the idea to fill all the benches with nursing mothers.
“I saw all the benches in the park and thought to myself how beautiful it would be if they were all occupied by breastfeeding mothers,” said Tondeleir.
“And so the idea was born to do something visual, because that would really be such a beautiful image. After all, I never saw breastfeeding mums in the street scene.”
Two weeks ago, she launched an appeal for nursing mothers to come together during Breastfeeding Week, which is the first week in August.
The goal of Breastfeeding Week is to promote breastfeeding efforts, including support, education, research and the normalisation of public feeding.
A dedicated bench was recently set up on the Grote Markt in Kortrijk, in West Flanders, with a similar aim in mind.
Other initiatives this week for Belgium include the publishing of a map that shows the best places across Brussels and Flanders for nursing mothers looking to breastfeed or pump in a safe and quiet place, without judgement.
For the Ghent effort, Tondeleir was also motivated to bring mothers out of the isolation that came with coronavirus related lockdowns over the last year.
“Because of Corona, a lot of people are isolated,” said Tondeleir.
“The first weeks after giving birth are tough. That is why it is nice to bring them all together, so they can support each other and pull each other up.”
A hundred mothers and fathers came to the park on Wednesday to show support and be a part of the demonstration.
One of the mothers, Chiara, said that she used to always cover herself and her baby with a blanket while breastfeeding in public places.
“I had also noticed then that very few people breastfeed, certainly not in public. I had to get over that,” Chiara said.
“But at the end of the day, it is something that comes so naturally, and then you hear about women being beaten and humiliated for breastfeeding in public. That is not okay at all and that is why I am here today. It's a boost to be here with other women and other mums who have also brought their partners.”
Chiara’s partner, Thomas, was also there to support the initiative.
“I definitely wanted to be there to support my wife and because I saw some risks in it,” he said.
“Of course, Citadelpark does not have the best reputation. But when you see that such a large group of people has come together, the worries are immediately gone. Now I can enjoy myself with my wife and child.”
The Brussels Times