On Saturday August 4 at The Ulster Museum, Breastival Belfast will host Northern Ireland’s largest gathering of breastfeeding mothers to celebrate world breastfeeding week.

Breastival co-founders, Belfast mums Jennifer Hanratty and Jennie Wallace are aiming to set a new record at 10.30am for the most children breastfed at the same time and place in Northern Ireland, as part of the “Global Big Latch On”.

Jennie Wallace notes, “We smashed the previous record at Breastival 2017 and hope to do that again this year. We are delighted that Belfast’s new lord mayor will be joining us to announce the official Latch On count.”

Breastival, which is in its second year, is a fun-filled family festival that offers support, learning and a chance to meet other families. With talks and workshops for expectant parents, new families, experienced parents and grandparents and supporters, everyone can find something to enjoy.

Breastival welcomes all supporters of breastfeeding and anyone who wants to learn more about it.  The festival features talks by renowned pharmacist Dr Wendy Jones alongside local experts, including consultant surgeon Ciara McGoldrick on breast health, Paediatric Dietician Jennifer Ashcroft on nutrition and milk supply and many more. We also have taster sessions of Baby Sensory, Pregnancy yoga, Mindfulness, Toddler Sense, Sing and sign and our new “Boobtique” bring and buy sale to pick up a bargain on a new maternity or nursing wardrobe.

A very special addition to Breastival’s program this year is “Let Down”, the world premiere of a unique performance piece that interweaves movement, verbatim text, and an original soundscape to give voice to women’s experiences of keeping tiny humans alive.

Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, and breastfeeding successes and failures can be difficult to talk about. Incorporating the latest findings of social science research on infant feeding, this interdisciplinary dance work aims to approach an emotive topic in ways that speak to and communicate, the often untold stories of women’s maternal experiences. Building on interview material and online forum sharings of both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding women, Let Down looks at questions of the quantified self (‘the quantified self’ refers to measurement and comparison of one’s self to others), failure, and problems of online “sharing” in the context of infant feeding. Let Down is part of a practice-based research project on Dance and the Maternal supported by Queen’s University Belfast.

Let Down will be performed in The Brian Friel Theatre, a short walk from the Museum, at 2pm on the 4 August. Tickets for Let Down are free but limited so booking is essential: eventbrite.co.uk

Breastival aims to normalise what has sometimes been a controversial subject in Northern Ireland. Despite the NHS and World Health Organisation recommendation that children be breastfed until the age of two and beyond, only 7 per cent of children in Northern Ireland are breastfed past six months. More and more women are choosing to breastfeed but many of them will stop before they want to.

Co-founder of Breastival, Jennifer Hanratty, says

“Breast is not best, it’s just normal and for it to be a real choice for families it needs to become socially and culturally normal again. Too often new parents think that breastfeeding should come naturally, and when it doesn’t, feel like they’ve failed, but in truth, they have been failed by a lack of support and real education about how to breastfeed. Parents and babies need to be taught those skills and family and wider society need to support and protect them to make that steep learning curve a little bit easier. Breastival will be an opportunity for everyone to learn and celebrate the amazing experience breastfeeding can be when it is well supported”.

“Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, said: “I’m delighted to back Breastival Belfast and World Breastfeeding Week which aims to normalise and celebrate breastfeeding as part of everyday life. Belfast City Council is among a number of organisations which support the Public Health Agency’s #notsorrymums campaign to help create supportive environments for breastfeeding mums with City Hall a breastfeeding-friendly and welcoming venue as well as other council-run facilities including community and leisure centres.”

Breastival is free to attend and open to everyone but pre-registration is required at breastivalbelfast.co.uk . With over 800 people registered to attend including nursing mothers, expectant parents, kids, friends and family we are close to selling out but tickets for families in Sure Start areas are still available and are available by using the voucher code ‘surestart’ on eventbrite.co.uk

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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