DANVILLE — For a new mother, finding a private place to breastfeed at public events can be a challenge.
With that in mind, Hendricks Regional Health is sponsoring a private area at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds for mothers to breastfeed. The lactation room is in the 4-H Fair Conference Center, around the corner from the HRH first aid station.
”Privacy is always an issue for a breastfeeding family, especially with the heat at the fair,” said Lisa Maccaroni, clinical dietitian with HRH. “Babies get fussy, they don’t necessarily want to nurse. This could cause mothers to not come out to their fair with their children.”
But families who are involved in the fair don’t have that option, as they’re often required to be at the fair up to 12 hours per day.
That’s the situation Holly Haste found herself in, being the mother of breastfeeding infant as well as two girls who show goats at the fair.
”It’s fantastic because I think that (the infant) nurses a lot better uncovered,” Haste said. “To be able to come here in the nice, cool air conditioning and get her out of the heat is great.”
Maccaroni said there was a big statewide push last year to provide breastfeeding services at county fairs.
”This is a public service that we feel is very important for young families in Hendricks County to support breastfeeding,” Maccaroni said. “It was well received last year. This year, we have had moms seeking it out, without our signage being up this year.”
She said that it also helps provide an opportunity for awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding in the community.
”It’s trying to break down the cultural barriers to breastfeeding and the moms feeling comfortable about getting out with the family,” Maccaroni said. “We want to increase the duration, and ultimately the health outcomes of the family -- both mom and baby.”
Maccaroni said about 85 percent of new mothers nurse in the hospital with a newborn, but that drops off dramatically when the baby hits 6 months.
The lactation room at the fair has books and quiet games to entertain older siblings while the mother is nursing the baby. The Kroger store in Danville donated water and ice, so those utilizing the room can get a cold drink.
Maccaroni said the room could probably hold six mothers at a time. The idea, she stressed, is to encourage breastfeeding.
”With the baby, we knew a while ago that it was going to reduce the incidence of allergies,” Maccaroni said. “It also helps prevent respiratory disease in a young infant. Now, the most compelling research that’s coming out is showing that it might reduce the rates of obesity and type II diabetes as an adult if they are a breastfed infant.”
She added it also contributes to a reduction in the risks of breast cancer for mothers who nurse.
Teresa Coverdale, who oversees the area, has experience with lactation areas at the fair.
”They began to have this at the state fair maybe 10 years ago,” Coverdale said. “I’ve done that a couple of times with the Red Cross. By doing that, I found that it was really a nice benefit for the mom. They had a tent, an RV, and a corner of a building, so they had three places. I was surprised how many mothers were using it.”
Coverdale also said that it’s nice to have others see that breastfeeding is normal and to spread awareness.
”With the nutrition of it and the health benefits of it, there’s just so many reasons to breastfeed,” she said. “There are just so many people who are shy and don’t want to ask about it, especially young girls. I think if they have the availability, that will help.”