What is the Big Latch On?

The Big Latch On is an annual public health initiative to promote and celebrate breastfeeding, as well as support and connect parents and whānau on all infant-feeding journeys, within their own communities. It involves thousands of people from different cultures and backgrounds gathering together at registered venues throughout Aotearoa to access community and peer to peer support, breastfeed their children, and/or share their breastfeeding/expressing photos online to the Big Latch On Facebook page with the tag #BigLatchOnNZ. Ultimately, the Big Latch On aims to reduce some of the most common barriers to breastfeeding continuation. The Big Latch On supports communities to identify and grow opportunities for ongoing breastfeeding support and promotion. It provides an opportunity for women and whānau to make new friends, network and feel more confident about breastfeeding (particularly in public).

The Big Latch On has continued to grow, with 2018 being the biggest Big Latch On to date. A total of 2,091 children latched on, which includes those who attended a Big Latch On venue, and 215 who took part through social media in the form of a breastfeeding ‘selfie.’ There were 107 Big Latch On venues in 2018. Some of the venues had very high numbers of participants, such as 85 latches at an event hosted by the Northland DHB, and 95 hosted by Community Birth Services in Te Papaioea. There was at least one Big Latch On in every DHB region across Aotearoa.

What are the aims of the Big Latch On?

•To be inclusive, welcoming and supportive of all whānau regardless of how their child is fed.
•To support communities to identify and grow opportunities for on-going breastfeeding support and promotion.
•Connect whānau with support and knowledge available in their communities.
•Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.
•Connect parents with other parents and act as a conduit for the establishment of peer support groups (particularly in rural areas)

When is the Big Latch On?

The 2023 Big Latch On will take place from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th April. In previous years, the Big Latch On was held during World Breastfeeding Week in August, however we are moving the event to the warmer month of April from 2023 onwards. Hosts are welcome to schedule events at any time across the three days. Participants are welcome to go along to as many, or as few, events as they like.

What time is the Big Latch On?

To make the event as inclusive as possible, hosts are able to hold their Big Latch On event at any time throughout the weekend (Friday 14 – Sunday 16 April). It’s important that you highlight what time your event starts on your promotional material/advertising.

Can the Big Latch On be held online/virtually?

Yes, you can hold a virtual event if you choose to or if it is the most appropriate type of event for your community. For many years the Big Latch On was only held in person, but after 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic we had to do things differently. Whilst we do encourage all Big Latch On participants to try to make it to an in-person event, we appreciate that sometimes this is not possible, which is why we now allow for virtual events. People who cannot make it to an in-person event can also participate in our Brelfie initiative, by taking a picture of themselves feeding (breast, bottle, expressing, SNS etc) and posting/sharing it online with the hashtag #BrelfieNZ and #BigLatchOnNZ. These online options are designed to coexist with physical participation, rather than replacing it, as a way of creating more ways for parents to feel supported and connected.

Guidelines for the Big Latch On

In recent years, Women’s Health Action have made the ‘rules’ around the Big Latch On more flexible. We want the event to be as fun and inclusive as possible, and we encourage hosts to be flexible and use their discretion when organising and hosting the events.

Below are a few key ‘must do’s’ for the Big Latch On:

  1. Participant registration must be done on the day of the event. All participants must complete the registration form supplied by Women’s Health Action.
  2. All participants should be counted. This is regardless of whether parents are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding their children. We want to be supportive of responsive feeding and understand that babies/children need to be fed when they are hungry, or that some children may be distracted at the event. As a host, you should include anyone who attended your event with the intention of participating, regardless of whether they actually ‘latch on’ at a specific time, or at all.
  3. Hosts should ensure there are enough people to count the number of participating babies/children.
  4. All venues must report their latched-on numbers by 11am (unless you have arranged an alternative time with Women’s Health Action) You will need to text the number of participants to Women’s Health Action, along with your venue number. Women’s Health Action will send out an email with information on sending in your numbers before the Big Latch On. PLEASE NOTE: If you misplace your venue code please contact Women’s Health Action on 09 520 5295
  5. Hosts must complete evaluation forms and encourage participants to complete supplied evaluations forms before leaving the venue (or complete evaluations online).

Who can register an event for the Big Latch On?

Any individual, organisation, community group or company interested in supporting parents.

Who cannot register a venue for the Big Latch On?

Any entity that is in violation of the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. You can access the Code here.

Where can my event be held?

A café, marae, playgroup, church, local meeting room, hospital, health centre, workplace – one year there was a Big Latch On held on a plane! You can hold the event wherever you want to meet, as long as it is in Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2023, you also have the option to hold your event online.

Can we have a private event?

Yes. When you register your event on our website, the final question asks, “Do you give permission for us to advertise your event on our website?” If you would like your event to be private and therefore not listed/visible on the website, check “No”.

How can we spread the word about our event?

Promotional materials:
Once you have registered your event, Women’s Health Action will provide you with promotional materials such as posters and postcards. It is a good idea to put up the posters and postcards in areas where pregnant people and mums will see them (i.e. Plunket rooms, cafes, malls, church notice boards etc).

Social media:
The 2018 evaluation of the Big Latch On showed that most participants found out about the Big Latch On via Facebook. We suggest using social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter to help spread the word. Make sure you like/follow the official Big Latch On Aotearoa Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BigLatchOnNZ

Other ideas include:
• Approach local businesses and see if they would be happy to promote your event on their social media pages, websites and/or publications. You may offer promotion of their goods and services in return, however you will need to make sure they meet the sponsorship guidelines – see the Fundraising, Donations And Sponsorship section below for more information.
• Approach local midwives and ask if they would be willing to put up your posters and/or give out your postcards.
• Approach your local maternity hospitals and birthing centres and ask if they would be willing to put up your posters and/or give out your postcards.

Print, radio and television media:
Women’s Health Action engage with print, radio and television media to promote the Big Latch On at a national level. As a registered host, we will provide you a template to produce your own local media releases and Women’s Health Action are available to provide you with further guidance about working with the media. We are here to help so please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like any assistance, even if you just want to bounce some ideas off someone. Email [email protected] or call us on 09 520 5295.

Can we set up our own website or Facebook page?

Yes, you can set up your own Facebook event. If you email us the link, we will share your event on our Facebook page.

How do I cancel my event?

Before you cancel your event, consider whether someone else can take over the hosting responsibilities. Women’s Health Action can assist you with finding a new host and help to address any other difficulties you may be facing. If you still need to cancel your event, you can do so at any time. Firstly, you need to delete your event registration – do this by logging into the website using the email and password you entered when you registered. You will also need to contact us at Women’s Health Action via phone (09) 520 5295 or email ([email protected]) to let us know you have cancelled your event. Please be aware that you are responsible for making sure your community is informed of the cancellation. This means you need to spread the word about the cancellation in all the places you originally advertised, and you will need to make arrangements for the women who have not heard about the cancellation and still turn up to your location.

Who can attend my event?

If your event is public and listed on our website, then anyone can attend. If your event is private and therefore not listed on our website, only people who you invite will be able to attend.

How do I know how many people to expect at our event?

If your event is public you probably won’t know, it’s part of the fun of the Big Latch On. You may ask participants to register or to contact you if they plan to attend your event, however they do not have to do this. People may also plan to attend but on the day not be able to make it for various reasons.

What if no one turns up?

Use the experience as learning and build on it for next year! Please contact Women’s Health Action and we can work with you for the following year. Please make sure you still contact us by texting us your venue number and the number of participants (‘0’ in this case) to the number that is emailed to you.

How will women know when the count starts?

We suggest you settle everyone down at 10.20am. Follow this with a ten second count down just before 10.30am, this way as many parents as possible will be able to get their children latched on at the same time.

What if we are not ready to start the latch on at 10.30am?

Don’t worry if you are running a bit late, or some children don’t latch on exactly at 10.30. Anyone who is feeding (or intending to feed) around this time can be counted. We support our hosts to use their discretion to make the Big Latch On a fun and inclusive event.

Is there an age limit for breastfeeding children?


How many counters do we need for our event?

A ‘counter’ is someone you (as the host) have identified before the event to count the number of children ‘latched on’ at your venue. It is best to choose someone who is not also participating. We suggest having at least one ‘counter’ for groups of less than 10, and at least two for groups greater than 10.

What if someone participates on both days?

As the count is for the number of participants (children), it is fine for parents to be counted separately on each day.

What if someone wants to take an ‘I Latched On’ selfie at a Big Latch On event?

This is fine, but they must make sure it is only themselves and their baby in the photo. They cannot upload pictures of other people without their permission.

Why is the Big Latch On no longer in August?

For many years, the Big Latch On was held in the first week of August to coincide with International World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). WBW commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. You can read more about WBW at http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/. However, because WBW falls in the winter time/cold and flu season in Aotearoa, it is not the best time to encourage people to get out in public with their children. After several years of COVID-19 lockdowns and disruptions, we decided that 2023 will be the first time we move the Big Latch On to the warmer month of April.

What if the parent is feeding twins or tandem feeding – does this count as one or two latches?

As we are counting the number of children, feeding twins or triplets (or more!) counts as two or three latches, even if they are not all feeding at the same time. We figure that’s fair enough!

How do I report my participant numbers after the Big Latch On?

All events must report how many people participated/attended their events. You will need to text the number of latches to Women’s Health Action, along with your venue number. Women’s Health Action will send out an email with information on sending in your numbers before the Big Latch On.
PLEASE NOTE: If you misplace your venue code please contact Women’s Health Action on 09 520 5295

Can we charge admission to cover our costs?

No, but you can seek donations from local businesses and benefactors to cover your costs.

Can we get sponsorship to cover costs or supply spot prizes?

You can use sponsorship to help cover costs like printing, advertising and supplying food and drinks. Some events have local businesses provide goodie bags or turn their event into a pamper day with services such as bra fittings and massage!! Your local businesses might also supply you with spot prizes for participants, or with drinks and snacks for your Big Latch On.

Do we have to have photos of our event?

You no longer need to supply official evidence, but we would still love to receive photos from your event. Please make sure you have people’s permission to be included in photos.

What if a participant does not wish to be photographed?

The participation registration form includes a section for participants to give permission for their photos to be taken and for these photos to be used by Women’s Health Action. As hosts, you are responsible for ensuring you have participants’ permission for any photos and any film footage taken at your Big Latch On. Photographers and videographers should be made aware of any participants who do not wish to be photographed. By sending in photos or film to Women’s Health Action, you are agreeing that you have permissions from all those in the images.

Can we use our own registration and feedback forms?

No, you must use the paperwork provided by Women’s Health Action. If you have not received these forms, you will be able to download them from the “Host Resources” section on our website or contact us at [email protected] . We use this information in formal evaluations to improve The Big Latch On.

Do we complete the registration and feedback forms?

Yes, all hosts must ensure the registration forms, host and participant evaluation forms are completed. Your feedback is really important to us and it is the only way we can evaluate the work we are doing. The time you take to complete the evaluation forms and to encourage those who attended your Big Latch On to complete the participant evaluation is greatly appreciated.

What forms must I complete after the event?

• Complete the online or hard copy Big Latch On Host survey
• Email or post completed registration and participant evaluation forms to [email protected] or post hard copies to Women’s Health Action, 13 Coyle Street, Sandringham, Auckland 1025.