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Food & Hunger

A British Ultra-Marathon Runner Stopped During a 105-Mile Race to Breastfeed Her Baby


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Breastfeeding, for mothers who are able to, is the healthiest and most beneficial option for both mother and baby. But all around the world women are actively discouraged from breastfeeding, largely by the stigma that still surrounds it. Women like Sophie Power are amazing role models, showing the world that mothers shouldn’t be shamed just for feeding their child. Join us and take action here in support of breastfeeding. 

Most of us couldn’t imagine running a 105-mile race in our absolute wildest dreams. 

But one British mother has shown us all who’s boss by — not only running it just three months after giving birth — but also taking a time out during the race to breastfeed. 

Mother-of-two Sophie Power, from London, was about 16 hours into the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc when she first got the chance to feed baby Cormac at a rest stop at Courmayeur, Italy. 

Take Action: We Need Backup: Get Trade Unions Behind Our Call for Breastfeeding Rights

The moment was captured by a photographer for Strava, and the image has since gone viral with more than 25,000 likes. Strava described it as a “a story of motherhood, endurance, and the strength of the human body” in its caption.

“We applaud you,” it added. “We applaud your endurance, your courage, and your defiance of those who told you you couldn’t. You’re a true inspiration.”

When Power — having finished the race through Italy, France, and Switzerland in 43 hours and 33 minutes — shared the image on Instagram, however, she made an incredibly powerful point.

“This isn’t a story about me,” she wrote in the Instagram photo caption. “It’s a story about the daily struggle of being a new mum. A story about the need to nurture our babies the best we can. And the importance to prioritise our physical and mental health — to be ourselves as well as be a mother.” 

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“I have been overwhelmed by the positivity and supportive messages,” she added. “They are for all mothers for we are all in this together #motherhood.” 

Power has since spoken about her race, and the moment she paused to breastfeed, saying she was “relieved” he was hungry as she was “in agony”, according to Runner’s World

While she usually feeds Cormac every three hours, she wasn’t able to feed him until about 48 miles into the race — and she had been “hand expressing everywhere I could en route.”

Awareness about the health benefits of breastfeeding — for mothers who are able to — is vital. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation warned in July that 60% of babies — an estimated 78 million around the world — aren’t being breastfed within the first hour of life.

It puts the babies — most of whom are born in low- and middle-income countries — at a higher risk of death and disease, with babies who are breasted within the first hour being “significantly” more likely to survive. 

But all around the world, mothers are discouraged from breastfeeding either through legislation, or through stigma and shame. 

So Power’s story has not only added to the narrative about mothers being completely incredible, it’s also highlighted all kinds of issues about breastfeeding and the space for women in sport generally. 

Related Stories July 26, 2018 Public Breastfeeding Is Now Legal in All 50 US States

For example, Power was actually first accepted to be in the race in 2014, when she was pregnant with her first child. When she, being pregnant, tried to defer a year she was reportedly refused.

“They allow deferrals for injuries but do not accept for pregnancy as it is, in their words, a ‘choice,’” she said. “I really wanted to get the message out, most other international races have changed their policy to be fair to women.” 

Meanwhile, given the attention Power’s story has been getting, Runner’s World then launched a poll that further highlighted why we need women like Power to bring the fight forwards.

The poll asked: “Quick poll as a follow up to this story, what do you think of runners breastfeeding or pumping midrun?” 

The options were “gross, a little selfish” or “it’s her business.” 

Power shared the poll on her Instagram, with the caption: “Where do I start on this one? Is it the use of the words ‘gross’ and ‘selfish’ when talking about breastfeeding? Is it the lack of a positive option to support breastfeeding runners rather than abhore them or tolerate them?”

“Is it the fact that you felt free to encourage opinions against what is a mother’s right?” she continued. “Or is it that many women are sadly still uncomfortable feeding their babies in public and you’ve just made it that bit harder for them.”