Healthy Living in the North

Breastfeeding: It can look different!

(Co-authored with Randi Parsons, Regional Nursing Lead – Maternal, Infant, Child & Youth, and Lise Luppens, Population Health Dietitian)

Woman holding two babies with t-shirt that reads "sometimes breastfeeding looks like this."Tailor-made to meet the nutritional needs of her baby, a mother’s milk supplies unique immune factors, stem cells, hormones, and enzymes. The composition of her milk changes depending on the needs of her baby. How incredible is that!?

Breastfeeding is recommended where possible, as it supports:

Yet, in situations where feeding directly at the breast is not possible, many moms can continue to offer their milk to their babies.

  • To relieve full breasts
  • To collect breast milk if they will be away from babies for more than a few hours
  • To increase milk supply*
  • To maintain milk supply during times when feeding at the breast is not possible*
  • To collect milk for feeding via an alternative feeding method, such as a syringe, supplemental nursing system, cup, or bottle*

For families interested in providing expressed milk by bottle, it’s best to wait to introduce a bottle until breastfeeding is well established (usually after four to six weeks).

*Families who need to express breast milk, for reasons other than feeding by bottle, would likely benefit from the support of a lactation consultant, or other knowledgeable health professional or breastfeeding support person.

Helpful tips for families

Just like breastfeeding, expressing breast milk involves a learning curve for families. It’s helpful for families to receive support and information about:

Exclusive pumping and combination feeding

Some families make an informed decision not to feed at the breast. Instead, they express breast milk and feed this to their baby as their sole source of nutrition. This approach is sometimes referred to as “exclusive pumping.” Other families choose a different approach called “combination feeding,” where they alternate between feeding at the breast and feeding breast milk by bottle.

Regardless of the feeding approach, it’s vital for mother’s support systems, including friends, family, and health care providers, to have an awareness about milk expression, exclusive pumping, and combination feeding. This awareness ensures that mothers are well care for, and feel understood and supported.

The bottom line

There are reasons why a mother may not feed her baby at the breast. In these situations, we all have an important role to play in supporting women who wish to provide their own milk to their babies.

To learn more, consider these resources:

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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