Campaign encourages mothers to ‘latch on’ to breastfeeding 0
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things humans do, and yet, in Western society, its numbers have waned. It is sometimes treated as unnatural.
Places in the world with great wealth tend to breastfeed less, using formula more.
It’s a trend that troubles family health nurse Tracey Westlake and has inspired a “virtual latch-on” in support of the practice where the public is encouraged to “like” breastfeeding online.
“We want to normalize it in the community ... so mothers are comfortable to breastfeed at any time,” says Westlake, who works for the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
“Breastfeeding is what the norm should be, but we’ve come through a medical society and a bottle feeding society,” she says.
Many women today grew up in homes where babies were bottle fed, meaning breastfeeding has to be reintroduced as the first choice for new mothers.
The stakes are high – according to the health unit, breastfed babies “have a reduced risk of diabetes, asthma, ear and upper respiratory infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”
The practice also reduces the chance of breast or ovarian cancer in women and helps mothers lose weight after childbirth.
In total, Westlake has been helping new and expectant mothers for about 25 years.
There is a learning curve to breastfeeding and sometimes it doesn’t happen exactly right the first time. To address that issue, the health unit holds breastfeeding clinics and also makes available nurses to visit new mothers at home in the first weeks after childbirth.
There is also over-the-phone counselling on breastfeeding.
The health unit advises children be breastfed to six months at least. At that point, solid foods should be introduced.
While provincial numbers show most mothers initially breastfeeding, that statistic quickly drops off.
Just more than 88 per cent of mothers start breastfeeding with the intention of continuing, but by six months, about 23 per cent have continued the practice of feeding their babies breast milk exclusively.
That statistic can be deceiving, Westlake says, pointing out those who choose to feed their children a blend of breast milk and solid foods would not be captured in the 23 per cent.
However, she says it does illustrate a trend away from the more natural ways of doing things towards bottle feeding.
As far as breastfeeding in public goes, Westlake says most mothers in the health unit have reported a positive community response with few problems.
The nurse describes Haliburton as an especially welcoming area for the practice and says surveys show those who don’t breastfeed in public choose not to for personal, rather than societal, reasons.
“They’re choosing not to breastfeed in public because of their own comfort level,” she says.
The “virtual latch-on” is planned for Oct. 4, but supporters can “like” the Facebook page any time. To find the page, search Facebook for “Breastfeeding – Any Place, Any Time.”
The health unit is offering a free class in Lindsay on breastfeeding on Wednesday, Oct. 3 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. While there are no classes in Haliburton now, there will be in the future, Westlake says. For more information, call 705-324-3569 ext. 308.