In an effort to further normalize breastfeeding, four life-size cardboard cutouts of mothers breastfeeding their children will be placed in prime locations around Ontario, Canada.
Real estate for these nursing mamas will include restaurants, government buildings, and businesses. The Porcupine Health Unit in Ontario launched the campaign, appropriately titled “Breastfeeding in Public.” Meagan Potvin, a public health nurse with the Growing Healthy Families Program and leader of the campaign, explains that the goal is to drive home the message that mothers should feel supported when breastfeeding their children. “These life-size cutouts make breastfeeding very real because they are photos of mothers who live here in the community,” Potvin shares.
One such mother, Kate Durst, shared her experience as one of the models. After being approached by Potvin and hearing the campaign’s mission, she knew it was something she wanted to be a part of.
“I’m 42 and an extended breastfeeding mother. I also run a corporation in our Northern Ontario community, so I thought it would be nice to represent that demographic,” Kate said. “It has been an amazingly positive experience!”
Though she’s received some negative backlash on social media from women who think her 2-year-old is too old to be breastfed, she takes these messages for exactly what they are, opinions. “Everyone is unique, and I respect their opinions, but I obviously don’t share them,” she says, adding that the campaign is about support for all moms and kids. “It’s about not shaming us for our choices, breast or bottle.” Kate goes on to say it’s about doing the best we can day in and day out.
Though nursing women are legally protected according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, they still face discrimination. Statistics show that women in Northern Ontario are the least likely to want to breastfeed in the entire region. Potvin said that many new mothers stop breastfeeding after just a few weeks, due in part to not feeling comfortable nursing in public. This is why one of the greatest hopes of this campaign is to one day make public breastfeeding an accepted fact of life that is not noticed at all.
“Breastfeeding is hard,” Kate adds. “Even when it’s easy and the baby is a champ and latches on the first go, it’s still hard.”
Kate believes that moms are warriors and that it’s not about whether or not you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed, but about respect and love for fellow parents. As a wife, mom of two boys, business owner, breastfeeding mom, and model for the campaign, Kate herself is the epitome of a warrior. She says the best advice she can give to any mom is to survive, love your kids, and to take time for you.
“As moms, we just have to do our best. Beyoncé had it right: ‘Strong enough to raise the children, then get back to business.’ We certainly do it all – and some days we don’t, but we do the best we can.”
Though Kate was unable attend the launch of the campaign due to travel engagements, she said it was very exciting and humbling to see the photos and witness how the story has spread through the media. The Porcupine Health Unit hopes to take the cutouts on tour to other communities across the region as well.