Healthy Living in the North

Growing breastfeeding-friendly communities: you can help!

breastfeeding mom on picnic bench

Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area.

As a breastfeeding mother, I have received support from friends, family, health professionals, and community members. This was true in the early days, as my baby and I were getting the hang of breastfeeding, and it is still true today as I continue to nurse my toddler. While I have generally felt supported, I also know that mothers can face challenges when breastfeeding.

Promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding is a responsibility shared by families, communities, health regions and policy makers. This means supporting individual mothers, as well as growing breastfeeding-friendly communities.

breastfeeding mom in barber shop

Is your business breastfeeding friendly?

A challenge a woman should not have to face is a lack of knowledge about her right to breastfeed. Did you know that women’s right to breastfeed is protected by law in British Columbia? As per B.C.’s Ministry of Justice:

  • Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area
  • It is discriminatory to ask a mother to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else

Women’s right to breastfeed is not new, but it may not be common knowledge. A little education and respectful conversation can go a long way.

Are you wondering what you or your business can do to make northern communities breastfeeding friendly and safe?

Consider ordering a free breastfeeding decal from Northern Health! The “Growing for Gold” decal can be placed on a glass door or window to show a welcoming attitude and support for breastfeeding moms and babies. The decal also comes with helpful information that you can share with staff or clients/customers, including:

  • “All women have a right to breastfeed. Anytime. Anywhere.”
  • Tips for creating breastfeeding-friendly spaces
  • Responding to a family’s request for a more comfortable or private location
  • Managing customers who may express negative feelings towards public breastfeeding

    Growing for Gold Breastfeeding Friendly decal

    The Growing for Gold decal on your business window shares your support and welcome to breastfeeding moms and babies.

When you order a decal, your business/facility will be added to the list of Breastfeeding Friendly Places on the Growing for Gold website (join the recently signed up Telkwa General Store & Café and other northern B.C. businesses who have shown their support by requesting a decal!).

A decal is a small thing, but it sends an important message and supports a valuable conversation. Help us to grow breastfeeding-friendly communities across the north!

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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Food: a foundation for building relationships

Mother and daughter picking peas

Picking peas with mom? Cooking dinner with grandpa? An annual Canada Day family picnic? Food is a foundation for building relationships!

Take a moment to recall some of your favourite childhood memories. Do they have a theme? My fondest memories seem to have two things in common: they’re all associated with a sense of being loved, accepted, and cared for, and they all involve food!

Many of my childhood memories are of time spent at my grandmother’s house, which was always warm, inviting, and filled with the distinct aromas of freshly baked bread and sauerkraut. We raided the garden and gorged ourselves on raspberries, rhubarb, and garden peas – still among my favourite fruits and vegetables today. My grandmother constantly prodded us to “eat, eat!” more of her homemade perogies or honey cake and it was clear that was how she expressed her love for us.

I also have a great memory of peeling fresh peaches with my Mom to prepare them for canning. We had soaked the peaches in hot water and were using paring knives to remove the skin. This was my first attempt at wielding a paring knife, and I remember how my confidence grew as my Mom gently coached me. I also remember how special I felt to have been chosen to help her with that task.

Food-related activities provide many opportunities for personal connection, and research has shown that there are several benefits to eating and cooking with your family. Children and adolescents who have more frequent family meals tend to eat more nutritious foods, perform better at school, and have higher self-esteem. Getting your kids involved with meal preparation is helpful, too: teens who participate in food preparation tend to have healthier eating patterns.

Unfortunately, our busy lives can make it hard to find time to prepare and share regular family meals. But take heart – family meals don’t always have to be formal dinners around the dining table! The most important thing is to create opportunities to connect and to share your stories and attention.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with what works for your family – even if it’s just one or two family meals per week – and build from there.
  • Plan ahead to make things easier on hectic weekday nights.
  • Host a make-your-own pizza or burrito night.
  • If gathering everyone together for dinner just isn’t possible, join each other for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
  • If after-school practices are scheduled around dinnertime, pack a picnic for the family to enjoy at the soccer field or baseball diamond.
  • Eating out? Ask everyone to put away their smartphones and tablets so you can focus on the meal and each other.
  • Start a new family tradition – maybe a brunch on Family Day or an annual chili cook-off on a summer long weekend?

For more inspiration, check out Better Together BC or the Family Kitchen.

Kelly Bogh

About Kelly Bogh

After spending many years in Ottawa and B.C.'s Lower Mainland, Kelly returned to her hometown of Prince George to complete her dietetic internship with Northern Health. One of the things she loves about Prince George is living in the "Bowl" and being able to get most places on foot! When she's not sifting through the research underlying dietary recommendations, she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time with family and friends (including four-legged furry ones).

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Beware the noisy toy

Baby with toy

Do you know how loud your kids’ toys are? A few simple steps can help protect their hearing health!

I have seen many an adult with hearing loss due to excessive noise exposure. In my current role as a pediatric audiologist, I am more likely to see hearing problems due to an ear infection than to noise damage. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, though.

The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act has a section on Toy Regulations. In it, they suggest that: “A toy must not make or emit noise of more than 100 decibels (dB) when measured at the distance that the toy would ordinarily be from the ear of the child who is using it.” One hundred decibels, though, is pretty darn loud!

Worksafe BC counsels, as do many safe workplace organizations, that at noise levels of 85 dB, an employer needs to provide proper hearing protection for their staff. Audiologists in both Canada and the US would agree this should also apply to toys. Granted, children may not play with that same toy for 8 hours (the length of an average workday); it’s more than likely that after about 10 minutes their parent tends to direct them to another, quieter, activity. But even these short playtimes with loud toys can be unsafe: Worksafe BC also counsels that workers can only be exposed to 100 dB for a period of 15 minutes before that noise becomes hazardous to hearing health.

Toy manufacturers are not required to specify the decibel output of their product, so how would a parent or well-meaning relative know? To put it into perspective: a gas-powered lawn mower is about 100 dB. So is a subway train entering the station. However, in neither case is the listener’s head as close to the sound as a child’s ear can be to a toy, or a teenager’s to an iPod. It stands to reason: the closer a sound is to our ears, the louder it is.

As parents don’t usually have sound level meters in their homes, what can they do?

Here are a few pointers:

  • Try before you buy. Listen to the toy, keeping in mind how close children will hold it to their ears. If you find it uncomfortably loud, it’s too loud for your child.
  • Is there a volume limiter, off switch, or battery compartment? You can always shut it off or remove the batteries. In the case of an iPod, iPhone, and/or iPad, a parent can access the volume limiter, reduce it, and lock it. Your teen may not be impressed, but their hearing health is protected – at least from the iDevice.
  • Depending on the size of the toy, put clear tape over the speaker. It will still make noise, but not as loud. If you’re crafty enough, your child may not even realize it’s there.

Interested in more information?

The Sight & Hearing Association, based out of Minnesota, provides an Annual Noisy Toys List. They use 85 dB as their upper limit, and a list can be provided to anyone who requests it!

Laura Curran

About Laura Curran

An audiologist at the Terrace Health Unit, Laura was born and raised in Nova Scotia but has made the trek to Terrace twice in her career - most recently in 2014, as she found she missed the beauty of the area. She started out in private practice for a national hearing aid dispenser and then moved into research before finding her main passion: Clinical Pediatric Audiology. When not working, Laura enjoys crafting, quilting, and camping with her husband.

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The sit-down family meal: A thing of the past?

Family eating at a table

Is it really worth it to take the time to eat as a family? The answer is yes!

When I think back on my childhood, some of my best memories involve food: big family gatherings for holiday meals, unplanned barbecues in the summertime, baking with my grandmother. They all revolve around enjoying food together as a family. Even when my sister and I were busy with various after-school activities, my parents almost always made sure we sat down and ate together. Now that I have a family of my own, I make a point of having a sit-down dinner most evenings. Is it really worth it to take the time to eat as a family when we could just eat on-the-go? The answer is yes!

The way in which families dine together has changed from 20+ years ago. People are often distracted by technology and lead fast-paced, busy lives. But what are we missing out on when we don’t sit down to eat together? Research shows that family meals have a big impact on the health and happiness of children. Structured family meals can:

  • Serve as an opportunity to “catch up” with one another and exchange stories.
  • Engage children in trying a variety of foods in a safe setting where others are enjoying the same foods.
  • Teach children to come to the table hungry, and eat with pleasure. They will leave happily satisfied and energized to do other things.

Family meals don’t have to be elaborate. They can be as short or as long as your schedule allows. Even sitting down to enjoy a snack together is beneficial. Some meals might be missing a family member or two for whatever reason – and that’s okay. The key is to have everyone as often as your family can manage. To get started, try these tips:

  • Set a realistic goal. If you aren’t already having family meals, try for 2 or 3 meals a week and build from there.
  • Pick a time to eat that works for most family members, or alternate times so everyone has a chance to participate.
  • Communicate to all family members about the time and place. This avoids the “I didn’t know” excuse.
  • Set aside all distractions. Come to the table gadget-free, ready to eat and connect with one another.
  • Keep the mood positive. Don’t pressure children to eat; provide a variety of food and allow them to choose whether and how much to eat.

Remember: it’s not always about what you eat, but that you are taking the time to eat together. Start making plans for your next family meal today!

More tips and resources on family meals

The Ellyn Satter Institute:

Healthy Families BC:

Tamara Grafton

About Tamara Grafton

Tamara is a registered dietitian currently working with the clinical nutrition team at UHNBC and in long term care facilities in Prince George. Originally from a small city in Saskatchewan, she now lives the rural life on a ranch with her husband and young son. She has a passion for nutrition education, healthy eating and cooking. In her downtime, she enjoys reading food blogs, keeping active, and trying out new recipes on her family and friends

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Foodie Friday: Families cooking together (featuring Lila’s Apricot Almond Granola Bars!)

Two young girls putting vegetables into a soup pot

Children and youth who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop important cooking skills! How do you involve your kids in the kitchen?

I was recently involved with teaching some after-school cooking classes with youth in Gitsegukla, a Gitxsan First Nation community approximately 40 km southwest of Hazelton. While I was initially a bit nervous about teaching a classroom full of rambunctious sixth graders, it ended up being one of my most rewarding experiences working as a dietitian! As the kids arrived to the first class, I could tell there were a few skeptics in the group— they thought it would be “too healthy.” Luckily, curiosity and hungry tummies were on my side! After a lesson on food safety and knife skills, the room was buzzing with excitement as the kids chopped, grated, and prepped the food. The cooking classes were a hit!

As a dietitian, I am always encouraging families to make meals together. Why? Well, kids who spend time in the kitchen with their families develop cooking skills that support them in becoming independent, healthy eaters. Cooking is also a great way to expose kids to a variety of different foods and it helps them learn where food comes from. Making a meal to enjoy with others also provides a sense of accomplishment, pride, and builds self-esteem. And those are just some of the many reasons I encourage cooking together!

So the next time you find yourself preparing a meal or snack, why not involve the whole family? To get started, assign each family member with task that suits their abilities.

Apricot almond bars on a plate.

These apricot almond bars are a great way for families to spend time together in the kitchen! Younger kids can measure and scoop, more experienced kids can chop, parents can supervise, and everyone can learn and enjoy!

Things younger kids can do:

  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Peeling with a vegetable peeler
  • Measuring and pouring cold liquids
  • Kneading, punching, rolling, or cutting out dough
  • Stirring, tossing, or whisking
  • Sprinkling, spreading, and greasing

Things older kids can do:

  • Threading on wooden skewers
  • Cutting soft fruits and vegetables
  • Grating
  • Cracking eggs

Things more experienced kids can do:

  • Roasting or sautéing vegetables
  • Baking, broiling, or boiling meats and alternatives

For more tips from an online community dedicated to helping families cook and eat together, visit the Better Together BC website. Be sure to check out the recipe demonstration videos posted by families across B.C.! Here is one of my favourites: Lila’s Apricot Almond Bars.

Is there a recipe that your family enjoys making together? Please share in the comments below!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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World Breastfeeding Week

A mother breastfeeds her son.

World Breastfeeding Week (October 1-7, 2014) promotes the benefits of breastfeeding.

The slogan and theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2014 is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – For Life!”

World Breastfeeding Week will run from October 1-7, 2014 to recognize the importance of breastfeeding and promote the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies, as well as its social and environmental benefits. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme asserts the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding: it is a vial Life-Saving Goal!

Breastfeeding is not always easy, but, with the right support, most women can have a successful experience. There are many breastfeeding supports and resources available to women and families. For instance:

To kick off the festivities in Prince George, breastfeeding families are invited to celebrate the 14th Annual Prince George Breastfeeding Challenge on October 4, 2014. The event is held annually around the world in hopes of setting a new international record for the most breastfeeding babies at one time. In Prince George, the event will be held in the main floor’s Auditorium in the Northern Interior Health Unit at 1444 Edmonton St. There will also be a second site this year at The Kids Good as New Sale in the Diocese Centre (Old O’Grady High School) at 6500 Southridge Ave. Registration begins at 10 a.m. with official latch-on time starting promptly at 11 a.m. The entire family is encouraged to attend this free, fun-filled event. Refreshments and cake will be provided.

Laura Ravlic

About Laura Ravlic

Laura is a public health nurse who works for the children and families Team in Prince George, BC. She has three energetic boys who keep her busy out in the community with their many activities, including bike riding, class outings and soccer, for which she is an assistant coach. She is also involved in the Baby Friendly Initiative which promotes a breastfeeding friendly environment.

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