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Breastfeeding Women Gather in Elizabeth Park to Support Collinsville Woman

More than 60 breastfeeding moms gathered in Elizabeth Park on Saturday for 'The Big Picture Breastfeeding Event.' Photo courtesy of John Fitts, Canton Compass

‘The Big Picture Breastfeeding Event’ took place over the weekend in West Hartford’s Elizabeth Park, and was organized to show support of Collinsville’s Jessie Maher, whose recent video of a breastfeeding incident at the Torrington Target went viral.

More than 60 breastfeeding moms gathered in Elizabeth Park on Saturday for 'The Big Picture Breastfeeding Event.' Photo courtesy of John Fitts, Canton Compass

More than 60 breastfeeding moms gathered in Elizabeth Park on Saturday for ‘The Big Picture Breastfeeding Event.’ Photo courtesy of John Fitts, Canton Compass

By John Fitts, Editor, Canton Compass

More than 60 breastfeeding women, their children, along with many significant others and supporters, gathered at Elizabeth Park Saturday morning for “The Big Picture Breastfeeding Event.”

“I’m just excited to see all the moms and babies,” said Jessie Maher of Collinsville. “I just want to open up the conversation again and do it in a public place.” 

Maher has garnered local, state, national, and even international, attention since she posted a video of a breastfeeding incident at the Torrington Target store on June 13. A customer in the store’s cafe objected to her breastfeeding her baby  Zinnia sans cover in public, allegedly calling her ******* disgusting and a whore. The video, which shows employees and other customers coming to her aid, quickly went viral.

Maher has received intense attention since the incident through media, personal messages, talk shows and more. Most of the response has been in her defense but there have been a few detractors. Some have also asked why not just use feeding covers.

Maher said it’s a fair question but feels that many babies don’t enjoy eating “under a sheet,” as most adults wouldn’t. She also said it’s about enjoying a what comes naturally.

“I don’t want to cover my baby if we’re having a bonding moment,” she said. “It’s a natural thing and people need to know that.”

Michal Klau-Stevens, of West Hartford, runs thebirthlady.com, said there are numerous reasons women should feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, without covering up.  In addition to practical reasons, women have legal protection to do so, are doing what nature intended and when restricted, are really marginalized, she said.

“There is no indecency associated with it,” she said. “When women are restricted in how or where they are able to breastfeed in public, it becomes a social justice issue. It become a way to keep women from beging able to be fully active in society – economically, socially and politically. That’s why it’s so important to normalize breastfeeding.”

Klau-Stevens also said the event turned a negative event into a positive one.

“I think this is such a great way to make lemonade out of lemons,” she said. “What happened to Jessie was so scary and unnecessary and just really negative. This is a way to take something and raise awareness  about how important it is for women to be able to nurse in public safely.”

Other women praised the event as well.

Heather Hendricks of Tolland is nursing her second child and said she was one of those mothers who always felt she needed to find a private place to nurse – often at great inconvenience. She had met Maher before and after seeing the video and the response, was bolstered to feel more comfortable.

Elizabeth Aubin of Canton, who is also breastfeeding her second child, introduced herself to Maher at the event and thanked her for organizing it.

“I’m just very proud to have been part of this event today,” Aubin said. “I think it’s wonderful. Something very positive has come out of Jessie’s experience and hopefully it will help to open up more people’s eyes and minds to the issue that some women face when they’re breastfeeding.”

This story originally appeared on cantoncompass.com. Republished with permission.

For a full-screen version of this and other galleries, visit https://johnfitts.smugmug.com. Prints and/or digital downloads can also be purchased at that link.

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