The photo of Mari Villaluna breastfeeding her daughter, Ami, at the Dakota Access Pipeline action in Standing Rock, North Dakota won first place in the World Breastfeeding Photo Contest. Villaluna was awarded during Tuesday’s exhibit opening. (Courtesy Mari Villaluna)

The photo of Mari Villaluna breastfeeding her daughter, Ami, at the Dakota Access Pipeline action in Standing Rock, North Dakota won first place in the World Breastfeeding Photo Contest. Villaluna was awarded during Tuesday’s exhibit opening. (Courtesy Mari Villaluna)

Women breastfeeding in public celebrated in City Hall photo exhibit

When Mari Villaluna protested the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline last fall, she brought her then-7-month-old child Ami, and, as she would anywhere, breastfed her. But, she said feeding her daughter at the action at Standing Rock felt safer than doing so in San Francisco’s public spaces.

To promote a positive image of breastfeeding in public spaces, Villaluna and 15 other women posed for a new month-long photo exhibition that opened on Tuesday in San Francisco City Hall. Mothers were photographed breastfeeding their infants, from eight weeks to almost 2 years old, while sitting on park benches and in grassy areas.

“Thank you for allowing us to share beauty of relationship with your child and your own body,” Supervisor Katy Tang said to the mothers at the opening of the event on Tuesday. “All women should feel comfortable being able to breastfeed anywhere, anytime, any space.”

On June 13, the Board of Supervisors approved legislation — which was introduced by Tang and Supervisor Malia Cohen in March — requiring employers to provide a clean and safe place for lactation. Spaces should include a chair, a surface, access to electricity and a sink and refrigerator nearby, according to Tang’s office. The legislation goes into effect in January 2018.

For the photo exhibit, Tang partnered with the San Francisco Department of Public Health Lactation Collaborative for the exhibit to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week, officials said.

“By giving the baby breastmilk, the mom is giving the perfect gift to her baby, one that is irreplaceable,” said Mary Hansell, the director of the maternal, child and adolescent health from Department of Public Health.

While Hansell explained that breastmilk is a nutritious and natural food for infants, toddler Amy Villaluna wandered up to her. The more than 80 audience members laughed as Hansell lifted up the girl, letting her speak into the microphone.

Among the audience members was Samantha Brancato, one of the two photographers featured at the exhibit, who is also the mother of a 2-year-old son. She said through her photos, she wanted to help normalize breastfeeding, and also highlight how special the experience is.

“When I breastfed my son, even in public, time slowed down all around me, and it was like just our little moment together,” she told the Examiner.

Ruth Arevalo was featured in the exhibit with her infant son and said she felt empowered when breastfeeding.

“When you breastfeed your kid, not only it is emotional support for them, but also for you,” she said. “You feel so heroic, like a goddess. You feel like you are saving someone’s life every day, all day, and you’re giving the source that keeps them alive.”

Despite the benefits of breastmilk, only 43 percent of mothers in San Francisco exclusively breastfeed for no more than one month following the birth of their child, according to Tang’s office. Nationwide, only 25 percent of working mothers breastfeed for one month after returning to work, though specialists recommend children are breastfed until they are at least six months old, Tang said.

Argelia Barcena, a breastfeeding mother featured in the exhibit, said her employer provided a room for her to pump milk, and without it, she would have needed to go home at least twice a day and feed her baby.

Another mother, Mariah Holmes, agreed The City supports breastfeeding in public or at work, but said many people sexualize or disapprove of the practice.

“There is still a long way to go to make it OK everywhere,” she said.Bay Area News

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police officers speak with people while responding to a call outside a market on Leavenworth Street in the Tenderloin on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SFPD makes the case for more officers, citing Walgreens video

Most of us have seen the video. It shows a man filling… Continue reading

A 14-Mission Muni bus heads down Mission Street near Yerba Buena Gardens. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

San Francisco Public Bank Coalition advocates rallied on Feb. 5, 2019 as the Board of Supervisors considered supporting the creation of a public banking charter. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Apprenticeship instructor Mike Miller, center, demonstrates how to set up a theodolite, a hyper-sensitive angle measuring device, for apprentices Daniel Rivas, left, Ivan Aguilar, right, and Quetzalcoatl Orta, far right, at the Ironworkers Local Union 377 training center in Benicia on June 10, 2021. (Courtesy Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters)
California’s affordable housing crisis: Are labor union requirements in the way?

By Manuela Tobias CalMatters California lawmakers introduced several bills this year that… Continue reading

Mayor London Breed spoke at the reopening of the San Francisco Public Library main branch on April 20. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
SF reopening more libraries through the summer

After a handful of San Francisco public libraries reopened last month for… Continue reading

Most Read