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Nursing Feat Retains Title

Tuesday August 12, 2003

Bay Area mothers successfully maintained the region’s reputation as the world’s premier area for breastfeeding mothers, but fell well short of beating their own world record. 

Berkeley’s breastfeeding moms soundly trounced rivals from Down Under, when they simultaneously nursed 684 babies in the Berkeley Community Theater Saturday, compared to the 48 women who participated in a similar event in Adelaide, Australia, earlier that day, taking the 2003 crown. 

However, Bay Area organizers had held out high hopes for beating last year’s record of 1,130 mothers and said they were disappointed that so few women came out for this year’s event. 

“We were expecting twice as many and got half as much,” said Ellen Sirbu, the director of Berkeley’s Women, Children, and Infants program. 

Many mothers said that the novelty of the breastfeeding contest had worn off and people were generally less excited because Berkeley already holds the world record. 

“I did it with all my friends last year,” said Berkeley resident Rachel Serant. “But this year they didn’t want to come back because it’s such a big production and it’s not really worth it to do it again. I kind of figured we weren’t going to break the record.” 

Sirbu, though, said that many women’s minds were on other topics, primarily the recall election facing California. 

“People are thinking about the recall and the state of affairs in California right now,” Sirbu said. “It’s easy to forget about other topics when that is persistently confronting you.” 

Still, organizers and participants emphasized that it was important to make their statement despite the decreased participant count. 

“684 is still a lot of women,” said participant Janet Magowan after successfully nursing her baby through the contest. “We are still forming a united front to show that breast feeding is important. Several hundred people are hard to ignore.” 

Breastfeeding is the best way to raise babies, advocates say, because baby formula simply does not approach the nutritional value of breast milk. Studies have shown that breastfed babies tend to be healthier and happier than those who are raised on formula. 

“Marketing and free distribution of formula, as well as commercials that make it seem like formula is better than breast milk, really hurt our push to show women that breast feeding is the best way to keep their babies healthy,” said Melody Hansen, a spokesperson for La Leche League, an international organization that advocates breastfeeding. “The United States has a very low rate of breastfeeding compared to a lot of other countries, so it’s important to get the word out.”