Some people cringe when they see a mother breast-feeding her baby. Others look away because they feel awkward.

Some people cringe when they see a mother breast-feeding her baby. Others look away because they feel awkward.

But some embrace it, and those who do will be out in force today, taking part in a massive breast-feeding event called "The Big Latch On."

Nursing mothers in 21 countries will attempt to break the record for the most women breast-feeding at the same time. The record of 9,826 women simultaneously breast-feeding was set in 2010.

The local component of the worldwide event, organized by the Southern Oregon Lactation Association, will run from 10 to 10:30 a.m. in the Public Health Building at the WIC office, 1005 E. Main St., in Medford.

The event was supposed to have been held outdoors in Medford's Bear Creek Park, but smoke from the region's wildfires forced the event indoors.

Leah Howell, 38, mother to 6-month-old Elias, said the bond between a mother and her baby begins with breast-feeding.

"Breast-feeding is a chance to slow down and focus on my child," she said.

The Big Latch On started in New Zealand in 2005, said Tracy Hanson, certified lactation educator at Providence BirthPlace. The event is meant to foster a feeling of community and solidarity for moms who are breast-feeding their babies.

"We want to bring awareness to people so that moms can breast-feed wherever is comfortable," she said. "We want moms to know they aren't alone in the fight to make breast-feeding a normal thing."

Heather Penner, 33, who will participate in the The Big Latch On for the second time, said she's doing it to help raise awareness.

"We, as mothers, have the right to breast-feed in public here in Oregon," she said.

Oregon is one of 45 states with laws that make it easier for women to breast-feed in public and in the workplace.

Maranda Parker, 20, said she's participating because she wants support.

"No one can tell me I cannot feed my child," she said. "It's natural."

Hanson said it's sometimes hard for mothers to breast-feed their children in public because many places don't have chairs in the bathrooms, let alone changing stations — not to mention the stares most moms receive from curious or confused passersby.

"There are always going to be those people who give you that look," Hanson said.

The theme for this year's Latch On event is peer support, Hanson said.

"It's about telling moms who are breast-feeding that they have the support that's needed," she said.

In 2000, the World Health Organization and UNICEF certified Providence BirthPlace as the 26th "Baby-Friendly" birth facility in the United States for its protection, promotion and support of breast-feeding. For more information about the Baby-Friendly designation, see

Providence offers breastfeeding classes from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month in the BirthPlace conference room. To register, call 541-732-5717.

For information about the Medford Latch On event, contact Korina Skaff at 541-774-8018 or

Reach Mail Tribune intern Amanda Barker at 541-776-4368 or at