Chelsea Proskow is a public health nurse in Yarmouth and is involved with the tri-county area’s Baby-Friendly Initiative, which organized a gathering of women and mothers to support World Breastfeeding Week and increase local awareness on the topic.
Proskow is an advocate, and feels women should be comfortable exercising their human right to breastfeed their babies wherever, and whenever.
“This needs to be normalized. There are still mothers who feel ashamed, who feel pressure to not breastfeed. We need to change that,” she said.
Paving the way for other mothers
Digby resident Ariel Rice attended the event with her daughter, 9-month-old Skyler, who heartily chewed on an apple.
She’s the first in her friend group to have a baby, and is intentionally paving the way for her friends trying to conceive to feel comfortable breastfeeding anywhere.
“I do it whenever I feel comfortable, because I know some people are more hesitant. I want my friends to see it, and to know they can do it too when they have their own babies,” she said.
“I’m here today to help support the community, and to bread down this outdated stigma that breastfeeding in public is wrong.”
Taking an old stigma to task
Proskow agrees the stigma is still tangible. In the tri-county area, she says Yarmouth has the highest numbers of breastfeeding moms. Digby comes in second, and Shelburne in third.
Numbers across the area are low, with less than half of mothers choosing to breastfeed their children.
“There are still circumstances when women are told not to do it,” she said.
“It’s unacceptable. It’s proven to be the healthiest way to nurse your child.”
Mothers supporting each other
Proskow was once approached by a woman in Clare while breastfeeding her child at a restaurant.
While she expected the woman to reproach her for it, she was surprised when she thanked her instead, saying how happy she was to see a woman breastfeeding comfortably in public.
Proskow is hopeful other mothers will have similarly positive experiences, but knows this is not always the case.
“Those kind of interactions mean so much to young mothers. To have someone tell you they appreciate what you’re doing makes a huge difference,” she said.
“That makes me frustrated because it’s her right, and it’s that baby’s right. Would you tell a mom who’s bottle-feeding to stop?” she asks.
Supports that exist in Digby
Fellow advocate Sam Lewis works at the Digby Family Centre, and works with mothers doing pre- and post-natal care at the centre. She’s worked as the Healthy Mom, Healthy Babies Coordinator for two years, and went to the centre herself three years ago while getting ready for her child.
“It’s important to know supports exist for women to promote breastfeeding. That’s what most of my work focuses on,” she said.
“Young mothers are particularly vulnerable, and need to know that support is there. These events are great, because they show them it really is.”