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Calling on 537 breastfeeders

By David Scharfenberg, Daily Planet staff
Tuesday July 09, 2002

Bay Area mothers want to break  

a world record, generate awareness 


Got milk? 

There will be plenty of it flowing at the Berkeley High School Community Theater Aug. 3, when Bay Area mothers attempt to break a record for most women simultaneously breastfeeding in one location. 

“Here in the United States, not enough emphasis is being placed on breastfeeding,” said Ellen Sirbu, Berkeley’s health nutrition program coordinator, who is spearheading the effort. “In order to do something educational, we had to have an event like this.” 

The current record, set in Tuggerah, Australia, last year, is 536. Sirbu said organizers, who also include health officials from the surrounding counties, hope to draw more than 1,000 participants to Berkeley. Two hundred women have already signed up, including one from as far away as San Diego. 

The breastfeeding will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the auditorium.  

Volunteers from the Bay Area Lactation Association will do the counting and, in accordance with Guinness Book of World Record rules, two independent observers will be on hand to verify the record. One of the observers will be Mayor Shirley Dean. 

Organizers will host a fair, with booths, a band and T-shirts for preregistered moms, from noon to 4 p.m. in Civic Center Park, next to the theater on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Sirbu said she hopes the event, which will take place during World Breastfeeding Month, will bring attention to the benefits of breastfeeding. 

“We know that breastfeeding is the best way to feed the baby,” Sirbu said. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of infectious and noninfectious diseases for infants and may reduce the risk for obesity and diabetes. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer for women. 

Sirbu said there are also intangible benefits. 

“It fosters bonding with the mom and baby,” she said. 

Still, in 1998, only 29 percent of U.S. mothers breastfed six months after giving birth, according to a federal statistic. 

“It all comes down to changing people’s attitudes on breastfeeding,” Sirbu said. 

Those attitudes may be difficult to change. One mother at Sirbu’s office, Richmond resident Irene Guzman, said she would have to consult with her husband before deciding whether to participate in the Aug. 3 event. Her husband, she said, does not like the idea of Guzman breastfeeding in public. 

Sirbu said she hopes the event raises awareness and contributes to concrete change. In a visit to Australia, where she heard about the existing world record, Sirbu saw decals in the windows of many businesses informing customers that breastfeeding mothers and their babies are welcome. She is hoping to get similar decals in place throughout Berkeley. 

For more information call Ellen Sirbu at 981-5131.