Rock and Rest at the Fair
South Windsor CT USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 1, February-March 2006, p. 9.
Thirteen years ago, Wapping Fair, South Windsor's (Connecticut, USA) agricultural fair, celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Fair organizers contacted all volunteer organizations listed at the town library to ask if we would like to participate in the celebration, and if so, how. I arranged a meeting with a Fair committee member and the La Leche League of South Windsor Leaders in my dining room, where we served homemade apple pie and iced tea, and proposed a Rock and Rest Tent. La Leche League of South Windsor has staffed and supplied the tent every year since!
The original Fair committee liked our idea but could not afford to provide a tent, so the first year the Lions Club rented the tent for us. The second year several local La Leche League Groups donated money for the rental. The third year we had no source of funding and the Fair decided to provide the tent. (We learned that among the Fair volunteers was a breastfeeding mother who expected to make use of it during the weekend!) Then the Jaycees took over management of the Wapping Fair. They found a sponsor the first year, but have since included a Rock and Rest Tent in their yearly Fair budget. Additionally, for the first few years a South Windsor Group member arranged for a local bottled water company to donate a water cooler for our tent. One year a member of the Jaycees telephoned me to ask how we had set that up! Since then the Fair has also provided the water cooler for us.
Our Group supplies the tent with eight to 10 lawn chairs, one rocking chair, a changing pad on a folding table, a box of wipes and disposable diapers, a blanket to cover part of the ground for the comfort of babies who are sitting up, a collection of toys, and a fan for hot weather. Volunteers sit outside the tent at another folding table with a display of La Leche League tear-off sheets and meeting announcements for local Groups. We adorn the tent inside and out with 8 x10 graphics of the LLL logo and a large sign that says "Rock and Rest" (made by a Group member 13 years ago and carefully stored from year to year). At the entrance stands our La Leche League sandwich sign. (Note: We are not allowed to sell anything at the Fair.)
Mothers who volunteer to staff the tent work in two-hour shifts during the daylight hours and are drawn from our Group's attendees and Leaders and Leader Applicants from local Groups. We try to staff in pairs just for the companionship. When we're short volunteers (as we were this year), the current South Windsor Leaders, Kathy Pasakarnis and myself, work extra shifts so that members need not sit alone. A Leader steps inside the tent to ask every breastfeeding mother if she has any questions. As you know, there's always at least one question! Many mothers who have breastfeeding questions but no need of the tent ask them at the table outside. Of course, we make sure all mothers know that they are welcome to use the tent to feed their babies by any method. We have asked fathers to step outside when a mother's body language made it clear she needed privacy to breastfeed. (My experience is that those who desire privacy won't state their needs.)
Since few Fair goers have ever seen a Rock and Rest Tent, as parents walk by we call out that we have a changing table and cold water. When they come closer out of curiosity, we welcome them to feed the baby and take a break in our tent. Usually, just hearing "changing table" alerts them to our purpose. It is a pleasure to watch jaws drop and eyes widen when mothers hear that there is a place to feed their babies! After 13 years we now hear mothers answer our call with, "I'm glad you were here when I was nursing!" Many ask why all Fairs don't provide this service. I tell them to thank any Jaycee they see on the grounds and to ask at other Fairs for the service the Wapping Fair provides. I'm happy to say that in 13 years I have seen the number of breastfeeding mothers using our tent increase!
During the week following each Fair I write a note of thanks to the chairman of the Fair, congratulating him for providing an essential service for breastfeeding mothers. I always include something about the specialized help and understanding La Leche League offers to mothers. This year I received a reply from the coordinator of volunteers that included this: "Your tent was truly appreciated by many new mothers!"