Belgium celebrates mothers for International Breastfeeding Week

Belgium celebrates mothers for International Breastfeeding Week
Illustration shows a breastfeeding flashmob action in Antwerp city centre. Credit: Belga / Jonas Roosens

This week marks the International Breastfeeding Week, which promotes accessibility for women to breastfeed in public.

Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers is against EU law, yet many women still face prejudice and get kicked out of cafes or other public areas. Moreover, laws protecting breastfeeding mothers aren't always applied in the same manner across the EU.

In Belgium, a 'nourish in connection' action was staged with more than a hundred mothers breastfeeding in the Nachtegalenpark in Antwerp, reported De Morgen.  Similar events took place across 15 different venues in Flanders and Brussels.

Three mothers discuss why they breastfeed

Breastfeeding is important for infants, but some mothers may find it difficult to reconcile with work once they return from maternity leave.

For clinical psychologist Kim Calomme, 32, and mother of Bojan (5), Adan (3), and Yulia (1), normalising older children still breastfeeding is key.

"Although in recent years more attention has been paid to the health benefits of breastfeeding, there are still

prejudices still exist. I hear from many mothers that as a child gets older, feeding in public becomes more difficult."

Calomme told De Morgen that she breastfed her son Bojan until was 4 and a half, and her son Adan until he was 3, but believes that there is stigma against breastfeeding toddlers.

"It would be nice to see an older child at the breast without judging people who choose to bottle feed. Because that's OK too. Women can be critical of each other.  Anyone who comments on someone else's choice says a lot about themselves."

"You sometimes hear that men have difficulty with a woman's choice to breastfeed for a long time and can cause tension, with a man saying: 'Our child is demanding those breasts, I would really like to have them back. So I like it when partners come along. This event is necessary, not only during World Breastfeeding Week. I would like to do this every week."

Kindergarten teacher Kathleen van den Broek (34) mother of Bram (*) and Daan (3)

Van den Broek feels that the event "gives a sense of togetherness" and believes breastfeeding is an important connector between mother and child, especially as her eldest passed away.

" It is good that a threshold to be crossed for mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding in public.  Many women also feel embarrassed by a toddler at the breast. But I am proud that Daan still drinks breastmilk."

She adds that she sees less older children breastfeeding, but hasn't let that stop her from breastfeeding, even as she has started getting looks from people now that her son is 3.

"I have never put a cloth over it or shut myself off.After all, it's only a breast. If people don't want to see it, they should look away," van den Broek said.

Marketing & sales officer Esmee van Vaerenberg (34) mother of Emilia (1)

For van Vaerenberg, following your tuition is key, not what the world around you thinks.

"My daughter will be two years old next month. I've often been told by those around me: she's too big for me now. it's time to stop."

Van Vaerenberg recounts how her mother and grandmother find it strange that she still breastfeeds her daughter, and that until recently comments around breastfeeding were positive. Her friends, who were also mothers, breastfed until their children were around one year old.

She recounts how she found believes it is constraining to pump milk for 15 minutes every two hours once returning to work. She felt lucky in how she was able to work from home, which helped her breastfeed. But the downside was that she felt alone in that many of her friends were either childless or had different views on children and breastfeeding.

Find an online platform with other mothers helped, which is why she also joined the breastfeeding event.

"I do understand that breastfeeding can trigger mothers who had the intention of breastfeeding themselves and for whom it did not work out. I am also not saying that breastfeeding is the only way to connect with your child... What I would like to recommend to all new mothers is to follow your intuition. It tells you everything you need to know."

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