Healthy Living in the North

Nutrition and breastfeeding: Are we sending the right message?

As a dietitian, I aim to stay abreast of up-to-date nutrition information. Some topics surprise me, and cause me to rethink my approach. I am realizing that information about nutrition and breastfeeding can send the wrong message, even though it might be well intentioned.

breastfeeding mom on picnic bench

There is no need for a special or restrictive “breastfeeding diet.”

Does breastfeeding require a special diet?

Online, we can find suggestions for foods that moms should or shouldn’t eat when they are breastfeeding. Mothers probably hear this advice from family, friends, and others, too. Unfortunately, this suggests that moms need to follow a special diet in order for their milk to meet their babies’ needs. Not only is this untrue, this myth can cause stress for mothers and families. It can also create a barrier to breastfeeding. Mothers want the best for their babies, and this informs the choices they make. And some mothers wonder, “Is there is enough nutrition in my breast milk?”

Mothers’ milk is amazing

I am happy to share good news. Even if she isn’t always eating well, a mother’s milk will generally be nutritious and the best choice for her baby. Did you know that the level of many nutrients in a mother’s milk are not affected by what she eats? What’s in her milk primarily comes from her body’s nutrient stores. As a result, her milk is a reliable source of calories, protein, fat, carbohydrate, and other nutrients, despite day-to-day variability in her diet. Her milk also offers so much more than just nutrients. It also supplies unique immune factors, stem cells, hormones, and enzymes – and her baby can’t get that from any other food. Amazing!

What guidance can we offer breastfeeding mothers?

There aren’t a lot of dietary do’s and don’ts for breastfeeding mothers; no special diet is required. As with other women of childbearing age, with the goal of supporting their own health, breastfeeding moms are encouraged to:

  • Choose foods from each of the food groups of Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Aim for two servings per week of fatty fish that is low in mercury, such as salmon, herring, and sardines. Canned fish can be a nutritious and economical choice.
  • Continue to take a multivitamin supplement, such as a prenatal vitamin.
  • Follow cues of thirst, hunger, and fullness to decide how much to eat and drink.

Some breast milk nutrient levels do fluctuate with mom’s food intake, namely certain vitamins and fatty acids. This is where the multivitamin and attention to fish intake can be helpful. Also, because we live in the north, we recommend a vitamin D supplement for breastfed children.

Other things that might be helpful to know:

  • You don’t have to drink milk to make milk.
  • A cup or two of coffee or tea each day is just fine.
  • Teas made from food products or the following herbs are generally safe: bitter orange/orange peel, echinacea, peppermint, red raspberry leaf, rose hip, and rosemary.
  • There’s no need to avoid spicy foods, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, citrus fruit, fish, sushi, soft cheeses, or other dairy products.
  • Avoiding specific foods for the purpose of preventing allergies in infants is not advised. For more information, see HealthLink BC’s resource: Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in Your Baby.
  • In cases where mothers or babies have unique nutritional concerns, a dietitian or other knowledgeable health care provider may be able to help.
  • Some families may benefit from additional supports to access food (see General & Health Supplements or BC211).

The bottom line

Breastfeeding moms can feel confident that their babies are getting great nutrition, and there is no need for a special or restrictive “breastfeeding diet.”

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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We asked, you answered: Northern Health staff weigh in on how to eat together

Family meals. Eating together. Sharing food. We know it’s important – in fact, a variety of previous posts on this blog discuss how eating together supports overall health. However, busy schedules can make it hard to gather at meal times. For some of us, a mention of “family meals” can lead to feelings of guilt. What to do?

A screenshot of a Northern Health staff poll about eating together.In a recent post, dietitian Laurel describes how food connects us, and she emphasizes that we can achieve this in small, baby steps. In honour of “Eat Together Day” (June 22nd), we polled Northern Health staff about how they could fit eating together into their busy schedules. An amazing 171 staff members responded – check out their responses on the right.

Breakfast is not where it’s at … or is it?
As the results trickled in, it became clear that getting together for breakfast was not the top pick; only 5% of respondents chose this option. Mornings can be hectic, and if that’s your reality, you might like Carly’s take on busy morning breakfasts or Marianne’s grab-and-go breakfast ideas. However, for some families, gathering in the morning might be easier than at dinnertime, with less pressure to accommodate kids’ activities or early bedtimes.

It’s snack time!
People are looking for realistic ways to connect around food. This might explain why the most popular response to our poll was “bring a snack to share,” with 25% of respondents choosing this option. Sharing a meal may not always be possible, but sharing a snack could be; it can be nutritious, quick to prepare and support connections with others. It might be a simple plate of cheese and crackers, or veggies with hummus dip, and an invite to those who can to join together for 10 minutes. If this appeals to you, check out healthy snacks for adults or Carly’s take on summertime patio snacking.

Shall we do lunch?
The first runner up in our poll, at 23%, was “gather with work colleagues for lunch.” We have meal breaks built into our work days and can use that time to gather. Even when we each bring our own lunches, there is value in eating together. The occasional work potluck would allow for sharing the same food as well. For inspiration, see Flo’s tips for eating well at work.

A selection of snacks on a table.

A selection of snacks that staff at the Terrace health unit recently shared on a morning break – a great example of bringing a snack to share and gathering around food during the workday!

Your turn or mine?
What about sharing the work of meal preparation? In our poll, 19% of respondents selected “take turns hosting with friends or neighbours.” If you’re thinking about hosting, consider one-pot meals like chili, casserole, or lasagna, where leftovers can be used for lunches or quick dinners. Consider asking others to make a salad, side dish or dessert. Alternatively, throw meal planning to the wind and host a potluck instead!

Let’s get outside
A few respondents were keen on gathering outside for a meal or packing dinner “picnic” style. These options allow us to enjoy the warmer weather and work around summer activities. If that’s up your alley, check out Marianne’s summer salads for sharing and Laurel’s delicious thirst quenching drinks.

The verdict
Eating together doesn’t need to be elaborate; it’s really just about gathering together at a meal or snack time. It can look different from day to day, and from person to person. Our poll of Northern Health staff emphasized that different things will work for different people. What about you? How do you make time to eat together with others?

Feeling inspired? Read more about fitting meals into busy schedules:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Down at the farm: Community Supported Agriculture

Summer is here! Amongst the many things to look forward to at this time of year is… Wednesday. Why Wednesday, you might ask? Well, this is when we take a weekly trip down to the farm and pick up our allotment of locally grown foods from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. This is the fourth year that my family and I have enthusiastically participated in the Skeena Valley CSA.

What is a CSA?

A CSA is a partnership between farmers and community members, which reduces risk to farmers and thereby supports local agriculture. Participants pay the farmer(s) in advance, providing them with the financial capital needed to plant, grow and harvest food for the season. In turn, participants enjoy local foods harvested throughout the growing sechopped rhubarb sitting on a table.ason. In our case, we receive weekly food allotments for about 20 weeks, from late May through to early October.

What food do we get from the CSA?

Every week, we are supplied with a variety of food items. In Terrace, it’s still early in the growing season, and at this time of year we tend to receive a combination of fresh produce, preserved items from the previous year, and other unique offerings. For example, a recent allotment included potatoes, jam, fresh lettuce, field flowers, lovage, lamb’s quarters, dried mint tea, eggs, raw honey and a bag of miso paste (produced by a local chef). Later in the season we will see dozens of other foods items, likely including cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, zucchini, cabbage, corn, apples and squashes.

What do we like about participating in the CSA?

There is so much I appreciate about being part of the CSA. For one, I am always impressed with the diversity of food items that we receive, and it is great exposure to what can be grown and harvested locally. Sometimes we receive foods that are unfamiliar to us: What, for example, do we do with “lamb’s quarters”? (Curious? Check out Emilia’s post about these leafy greens!)

I also like being able to dabble in seasonal food preparation. We can certainly preserve some of our CSA foods for later use, such as the rhubarb that I chopped up and fired into the freezer for future reincarnations into rhubarb muffins, rhubarb crumbles, or rhubarb iced tea (yes, it’s a thing). On the other hand, some of these items won’t keep well, so we have to be quite intentional and creative in incorporating these fresh and sometimes unfamiliar foods into our meals. Last week, I made a colourful salad with fresh lettuce, field flowers (totally edible!), and lamb’s quarters, mixed with chopped green cabbage and a miso dressing. It was crunchy and delicious!festive summer veggies and leaves in a wood bowl.

The CSA is also great for kids!

I love bringing my toddler to the farm. There are a few chickens, rabbits, and lambs on site, which is a curiosity for those of us who don’t have animals at home. More than that, however, on the farm we also get exposure to local agriculture, more than we do at the grocery store, or local farmers’ market. It’s rewarding to hear my daughter say, in relation to something we are eating, “Did this come from the farm?”

How about you? What opportunities do you and your family have to engage with the local food system? What are some of your favourite locally harvested foods?

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Supporting each other: mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the mothers in our lives. While we recognize the important roles they play in the lives of their children and families, today I want to reflect on how mothers also support each other.

In particular, I have benefitted greatly from my connections with other breastfeeding mothers. I remember a time, a few months before my baby arrived, that I shyly peeked over a friend’s shoulder to watch how her baby latched onto her breast. I recall swapping stories and laughs (and maybe tears, too) with friends who also nursed their children. And then, there came a day when I was the mother who nursed her toddler while a pregnant friend looked on, and she shared with me that she planned to breastfeed her baby, too.

While support for breastfeeding can come in many forms, I found that connecting with other breastfeeding parents was especially important for me. It was so great to share and connect with others who understood some of the joys and realities I was experiencing – they got it, they understood. Simply knowing other parents who breastfed their children in the toddler years, in public, and on the go, helped me to feel comfortable doing the same.

group of mothers breastfeeding.

Mothers and families can benefit greatly from connecting with other breastfeeding mothers and families.

Like me, mothers might be able to get this type of support through family and friends. Parents may also get similar support from programs or volunteers in their communities. For example, La Leche League (LLL) is an organization that is founded on peer-to-peer support:

LLL Leaders have breastfed their own child(ren) and …enjoy talking with other parents, sharing information, and helping others resolve challenges.” -Sue Hoffman, Coordinator of Leader Accreditation in BC, LLL Canada

Leaders don’t just have valuable personal experiences to share; they also receive training from LLL in order to better support parents and to provide accurate information. Leaders might provide support via phone, email, or in-person visits, or through monthly informal group meetings. One leader described these meetings as “safe place(s) where any breastfeeding parent can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.”

Group settings provide the bonus of participants being able to connect with other families:

It’s so wonderful to have a group of parents come together and support one another. Each parent attending has valuable experiences to share with the next parent.” -Rowena, LLL leader

Whether through personal connections, or through an organization like LLL, breastfeeding parents benefit from connecting with other breastfeeding parents. One parent shared:

We have found a community of other breastfeeding mothers, a community which supports us as we support it…I encourage every pregnant or breastfeeding momma to join.” -Hayley, northern BC mother

Families who are expecting a new baby and those who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding* can connect with LLL for support, through the La Leche League Canada website, by finding a group in BC, or by calling the LLL central telephone lines.


*Some parents may prefer the term chestfeeding. For more information, see LLL Canada’s Transgender/Transsexual/Genderfluid Tip Sheet.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Food and Fun: Building Healthy Relationships in the Kitchen

This month, we’re celebrating Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme, “Unlock the Potential of Food.” Food offers so much, including the potential for us to discover new tastes, skills, and experiences, as well as the potential to bring us together.

little girl mixing bowl with spoon.

Cooking with kids is so much fun!

My daughter recently had her second birthday, and she’s already a budding chef! She will declare, “I want to cook,” and proceed to push a chair to the kitchen counter, ask for exactly two bowls, a big spoon, and “more spices please.” She then mixes things together, perhaps adds a little water, decants from one bowl to the other, and, yes, makes a bit of a mess.

At other times, she “helps” me with a recipe. She has stirred the dry ingredients together for apple crisp and has “beaten” eggs for homemade muffins. Of course, I help her to “help” me.

Why do I support these messy kitchen adventures? Is it because it keeps her happily occupied for a few minutes so I can get something else done? Well, yes…but I also have ulterior motives….

Children are exposed to the world of food through the role modeling, attitudes, and habits of their families, friends, caregivers, and educators. Cooking with kids can help to build a foundation for healthy relationships with food. How is this?

  • “I want to cook!” Cooking together supports positive attitudes about food and eating. Food is a pleasure, and food preparation can be fun.
  • “What’s dis, mama?” Food preparation activities help kids get familiar and comfortable with a greater variety of foods. And this, in turn, helps them to (eventually) enjoy a variety of food.
  • “Me cook!” Cooking teaches food skills. At this age, cooking with kids helps to normalize the fact that we can make tasty dishes from simple ingredients. This builds their confidence that they will eventually be able to do this too.

 The child feels independent and it’s kind of a milestone…They think: OK, if I can do this, if I can just mix this, then I can do that too. It’s baby steps towards bigger things.”

 ~ Mother*

Cooking with kids helps to build their lifelong relationship with food, and it’s also important in the “here and now.” Time in the kitchen is quality time, a way to connect, an investment in adult-child relationships. And cooking together is not only fun for the kids – it’s rewarding for adults too:

It’s something we can do together; they get excited about it and it makes me feel good.”

~ Father*

What opportunity do you have to cook with kids? Wondering where to start? Consider taking a peek at our Cooking with Kids poster to see what children of various ages are capable of doing in the kitchen. You might also enjoy kids’ cooking videos from the annual “Hands-On Cook-Off contest” (or consider submitting a video yourself!).

You can also find more inspiration on our blog:

(*Quotes from “A Hands on Approach to Family, Food and Fun”.)

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Making kid-friendly meals

The reality:

In restaurants, “kids’ menus” typically offer a short list of popular foods, items like grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken fingers with fries, and simple pasta dishes. At home, meal time might feature one meal for the kids, and a different one for the adults. This extra effort stems from parental concerns that their kids won’t eat the same foods their grown-ups enjoy.

The challenge:

The idea of “kid-friendly meals” reinforces the notion that kids will only accept a limited range of foods. But it’s a catch-22, because if we only offer kids a short list of easy-to-like foods, we’re limiting their chances to learn to like a greater variety of foods.

A different perspective:

Trying new foods can be a treat to watch!

Kids are “eaters in training”, and with time and opportunity, they can learn to like the wide range of foods their families enjoy. They’re capable of so much! I think about what I have seen kids eat in other regions: spicy tamales in Mexico, liver pate in Belgium, and whale blubber (muktuk) in Canada’s Arctic region. Wow, right?

Given that kids can learn to like wide range of foods, I’d like to propose a new definition for a “kid-friendly meal”:

  • It is a meal that kids share with their family or other role models.
  • It’s a positive experience.
  • It fits into a routine of regular meal and snack times.
  • It provides an opportunity for good nutrition.

Here are some practical tips for making kid-friendly meals:

  • Make one meal for the whole family. Where possible, eat together, and help kids to serve themselves from the foods you’ve prepared.
  • Include foods from 3 or 4 different food groups, but know that it’s normal (and okay) for young children to only eat 1 or 2 items from a meal.
  • Be considerate, without letting the kids dictate the menu. Offer new or less popular foods alongside familiar favourites, so everyone can find something to eat (e.g. introduce a new vegetable alongside your standby pasta dish, or offer bread, butter, and cheese together with that chili recipe you want to try).
  • Consider occasional build-your-own meals, such as salads, pizza, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, or rice bowls, where each person assembles their own unique version of the dish.
  • Cut ingredients into large enough pieces so kids can recognize and pick out anything they are not yet comfortable with (e.g. when preparing a stew, cut the meat and vegetables into bite-size pieces).
  • Be honest about what you are serving; hiding vegetables or other foods into mixed dishes won’t help kids learn to like those foods. Worse, kids could become suspicious about the foods you offer!
  • Keep the conversation pleasant, and focus on connecting with the people with whom you are sharing the meal. If you are talking about the food, be matter-of-fact (e.g. “This is asparagus. It tastes a bit like broccoli.”).
  • Avoid pressuring kids to eat, such as “take one bite” rules or “try it, you’ll like it”. Let your child’s appetite be their guide for how much to eat, and let them learn to like new foods at their own pace.
  • “You don’t have to eat it” is always a great way to respond to resistance.

For more information, see related posts and resources:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Sustaining breastfeeding together: what mothers have to say

This week on the Northern Health Matters blog we have been celebrating Breastfeeding Week in Canada, with the theme: Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. I appreciate this theme because it speaks to the fact that we all have a role to play in supporting breastfeeding, both in the newborns days, and in the months and years to follow. Earlier this week on the blog, colleagues shared posts that spanned the breastfeeding journey, from early skin-to-skin contact to breastfeeding toddlers. Today, I want to share breastfeeding stories from mothers throughout northern BC.

Last year, Northern Health encouraged people to share their breastfeeding stories, and dozens of mothers responded. Of course, each story is different, but there are various commonalities. Mothers shared their thoughts on:

  • What they’ve enjoyed about breastfeeding
  • How they learned to breastfeed and how they overcame challenges
  • What hints and tips they found helpful
  • How they benefitted from support

Given this year’s theme of “sustaining breastfeeding together,” I thought I would share what these women had to say on the topic of support. Mothers shared that support comes from many different people, and in many different forms. It can start in our own homes, with partners and key support people:

  • “My husband was so supportive: ‘Of course you must breastfeed.’”
  • “My partner has been extremely supportive and accommodating. Whether it’s been bringing me dinner on the couch, having something defensive and educational to say for one of our public breastfeeds, or rubbing my back…” -Christine

Health professionals and community partners are also key, and many women spoke about the supports they received from midwives, nurses, lactation consultants, breastfeeding counsellors, and others:

  • “I love that maternity nurses are there for you to help when needed, even after you have left the hospital.”
  • “My midwife taught me to breastfeed lying down so that I could rest.”

While families, friends, and health care teams are important support people, many women strongly emphasized the importance of connecting and learning with other breastfeeding mothers:

  • “I had never seen a mother breastfeeding a baby up close before I became pregnant! So before I had my first baby, I consciously spent time around breastfeeding mothers, went to breastfeeding support groups.”  -Amy
  • “We have found a community of other breastfeeding mothers – a community which supports us, as we support it.” -Haylee
  • “I am a passionate advocate of breastfeeding education support, and I decided to start a local group of La Leche League Canada … to offer peer support to other breastfeeding mothers.” -Kelsey
  • “I have joined some Facebook groups for Pumping Moms and have given and received so many helpful tips along the way. Pumping moms stick together for sure!!” -Jody

Finally, mothers reminded us that it’s not just about receiving support in the early days. Our communities can do a lot to help sustain breastfeeding for months and years:

  • “Having the support of my husband and family, as well as co-workers and a supportive work environment, created the opportunity for me to continue our breastfeeding journey.” -Chelsea, about continuing to breastfeed as she returned to work
  • “I have two children and they were born in India. I breastfed them both more than one year. That is the cultural practice.”
  • “I did not hesitate to breastfeed in public. On the contrary, I was delighted that the majority of the community was very supportive.” -Tanya

All of these stories help to emphasize that support for breastfeeding mothers can come in many forms. What steps can you take to help to normalize and support breastfeeding in your community? Consider the following resources to learn more:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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What does introducing solid food mean for breastfeeding?

Infant eating chicken and peas.I am the mother of an energetic and impish toddler, and have experienced many humbling lessons in my short parenting career. One of my biggest lessons so far is, “You figure something out, and then it changes.”

Take feeding, for example. After an initial learning curve with breastfeeding, my daughter and I got to the point where we were doing really well with it. I appreciated how convenient it became to feed her. Time passed quickly, and around six months of age, it was time to start offering solid food – a whole new chapter with new questions and new learnings.

Good things to know about starting solids:

  • There are no hard and fast rules about how to start solids. Pick a couple of times per day to offer solids, either before or after breastfeeding. It can help to include babies at the table during meal and snack times, so that they can learn by watching other people eat.
  • Focus on iron-rich foods to start, and offer these foods twice per day (for more information, see pumping iron: first foods for building strong babies).
  • When starting solids, babies will likely only eat small amounts. Offer a few small amounts of food a couple of times per day; follow their lead, and offer more if they seem interested.
  • At first, more might come back out of their mouth than goes in! It will take some practice before they figure out how to use their tongues to move food into the back of their mouth for swallowing.
  • Changes in inputs will result in changes in outputs! Poops will look (and smell) quite different, and the frequency of these outputs will also likely change.

What does starting solids mean for breastfeeding? In short, the beginning of solids is not the end of breastfeeding.

  • When starting solids, mama’s milk continues to be the main source of nutrition. Babies six to eight months of age get about 80% of their calories from breastmilk.
  • As they get older, food plays a bigger role. By nine to eleven months of age, babies typically get just under 50% of their calories from breastmilk.
  • By one year, toddlers do well with a predictable routine of three meals and two or three snacks per day. Breastfeeding can fit into the day depending on interest and family schedules.

In our case, my daughter started solids at around six months, and by nine months, she was nursing about five times per day (in the morning, after each of her two naps, at bedtime, and once in the night). At eleven months, we stopped nursing at night. Over the next few months, in preparation for my return to work, we dropped the feeds after naps, too. For the past nine months, we have maintained a nice pattern of nursing in the morning and again when I get home from work. It’s a nice way for us to connect.

Everyone’s breastfeeding journey will be unique. I have found it helpful to learn from other breastfeeding moms; I love hearing their stories. Check out a few more stories about breastfeeding on our blog:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Feeding our babies: at what age can we start offering solid foods?

The question

As a mom, I know it can be hard to get straight answers to parenting questions. Websites and discussion boards offer so many conflicting opinions (right?). Even professional recommendations sometime vary. This can be confusing… and frustrating!

baby eating solid foods in high chair

At six months, my daughter let us know she was ready for solids. Here she is eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food!

As a dietitian, I also know people have a LOT of questions about feeding their babies. Here’s an important one: “When is the ‘right’ time to start offering solid food?”

The recommendation

Northern Health supports the following recommendations from World Health Organization, Health Canada, Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, and Perinatal Services BC:

  • Infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life
  • With continued breastfeeding, complementary solid foods and other fluids are introduced around the age of six months of life
  • Continued breastfeeding is recommended for up to two years and beyond

Well, now that’s a mouthful! Let’s simplify that:

“Breastmilk is the only food a baby needs for the first six months. After that, keep breastfeeding and offer nutritious foods, too.”

The details

Since there are some variations in when babies are ready to eat food, we see the language of starting foods at about six months of age. Some babies will be ready for food a few weeks earlier than six months, some a few weeks later. Your baby will give you signs, not just that they are interested in food, but also that they are developmentally ready. Your baby may be ready for solids if they can:

  • Sit up, unsupported
  • Open their mouth for food
  • Turn their head when they are full

Our daughter let us know when she was ready, which, for her, was just before six months (I have proud mama pictures of her eating little bits of soft stew meat as her first food. So cute!).

More questions

“Don’t some people say, ‘Food before one is just for fun’?”

Red flag! This phrase is concerning because we know how important food is for babies, starting at about six months. One big reason is the increased need for iron at this age. Other reasons include involving babies in family meals and supporting the development of their eating and food acceptance skills.

“What about children at risk for food allergies?”

You may have seen some media stories about the prevention of peanut allergy, where “four-to-six months” is sometimes mentioned. To clarify, the majority of families (98-99%) can introduce peanuts, at home, when baby is about six months old (for more information about safely introducing peanuts and other common food allergens, see Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in your Baby). For a baby with egg allergy or severe eczema (this is not common), their doctor can help make an individualized plan that may involve testing for peanut allergy before introducing peanut-containing foods.

Want up-to-date information on first foods for babies? Check out the following resources:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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It takes a community: September 9th is FASD awareness day

This blog was co-authored by Amy Da Costa (Regional Nursing Lead, Injury Prevention) and Stacie Weich (Regional Program Lead, Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms)


Communities have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention.

Fall is a time of transition and reflection. September and October in particular offer opportunities to reflect on healthy beginnings, with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day taking place today on September 9th and Breastfeeding Week coming up in early October. In a recent blog post, I encouraged readers to think about what they could do to grow breastfeeding-friendly communities. Similarly, we all have a role to play in supporting healthy pregnancies.

Years ago, I worked with a group to organize a “community baby shower” for FASD awareness day. The group decided on the slogan, “Support our ladies, protect our babies: alcohol-free pregnancy”. Their words emphasize that individuals, families, and communities all have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention and to support healthy pregnancies more generally.

Health occurs in communities, in the contexts in which people find themselves. How can these contexts become even more supportive of health? What can communities do to help to prevent FASD? I asked a few of my colleagues in Population Health to share their thoughts on this matter:

  • Let’s build understanding, address myths, and provide clear information:

“FASD crosses all cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and educational boundaries.”

“50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Women may use alcohol before they know they are pregnant.”

“In any community where there is pregnancy and where there is alcohol consumption, there is a risk of FASD.”

  • Let’s create safe spaces and strong support networks:

“How can our neighbourhood host welcoming spaces and social events where alcohol and other substances are not present?”

“How can our community foster social groups for expectant mothers?

“How can we remove barriers for community members to access food, shelter, and supports for mental and emotional health?”

  • Let’s talk … and listen:

“Let’s assume that all women are doing the best they can today to care for themselves and their growing babies. By setting the stage for open, honest, and judgement-free conversations, we can truly understand what women need from us as partners, friends, communities, and health workers.”

“How can we choose language that supports wellness and decreases stigma around FASD? For examples, see Language Guide: Promoting dignity for those impacted by FASD.”

“How do we open the door to important conversations?”

There’s certainly a lot to think about here! Even a small change can have a big impact. What is one step that our community could take to help prevent FASD?

Learn more about FASD:

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Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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