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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Tandem breastfeeding: Strengthening family connections

Young girl wearing a big sis t-shirt.

Expecting a second child can raise many questions, including how to breastfeed both of them at the same time, an approach called “tandem breastfeeding.”

Baby news! Our family is growing, and soon, we’ll be welcoming our second baby. This special news has our preschooler very excited – this is the same little girl, Jovie, who helped me to learn about the many joys (and challenges) of breastfeeding.

With our new bundle on the way, I’ve been wondering about breastfeeding both children, at the same time. This approach is called “tandem breastfeeding.” As a mom and a nurse, this topic fascinates me. Until recently, I knew very little about the topic, and today I’m sharing what I’ve learned so far.

Making an informed decision

Choosing to breastfeed is a personal decision, and breastfeeding looks different for every family. Some families consider the option of breastfeeding an older child during pregnancy, as well as after the arrival of a new baby. Here’s some information that might be helpful.

Is it safe?

  • In most pregnancies, it’s safe for women to continue breastfeeding an older child. La Leche League explains more in Nursing Through Pregnancy.
  • In some situations, caution may be advised.
  • Women can share their questions and concerns with their health care team.

Bonding time

  • Some mothers feel that breastfeeding during pregnancy can promote bonding with the older child as they prepare to be a “big sister” or “big brother.”
  • This definitely resonates for me as Jovie loves to “nuggle” more often lately. She wants to keep close to me and even talks (and sings) to baby – so cute!

…and then there were two (or more)!

  • When the new baby finally arrives, continuing to breastfeed an older child can help them to feel connected as their parents tend to the newborn’s unique needs.
  • Tandem breastfeeding also supports bonding between siblings. How special is that!?
  • An experienced nursling can also help their mother to manage breastfeeding challenges after the new baby arrives, such as engorgement, a plugged duct, or a forceful letdown.

Helpful tips to consider

It surprised me to learn so many interesting tidbits about tandem breastfeeding. I’ve also discovered that:

  • Pregnancy hormones may decrease the supply of breast milk. Jovie noticed this and announced “there’s no more milk, mama.” I assured her it would return, especially when the new baby arrives!
  • Mothers can feed both children at the same time, or feed each of them in turn. Families can do what works best for them.
  • Newborns should generally be breastfed first. Breast milk is their only food source, while older children are already enjoying a more varied diet.
  • Sharing the breast can be an adjustment for the older child. Engaging them in age-appropriate activities can help, as can trying different breastfeeding positions that allow mom to have a free hand. This sounds like juggling at its best! (HealthyFamilies BC shares some general tips about how to prepare an older child for a sibling).

Tick tock…

As we prepare for our newborn, I find myself feeling giddy about the new experiences we’re going to have as a family. There’s so much to learn, and I plan to consult my support circle as the pregnancy progresses. La Leche League has mother-to-mother support groups, so this would be a helpful place for me to ask about others’ experiences with tandem breastfeeding.

Interested in learning more, too? There are other resources to explore:

Randi Parsons

About Randi Parsons

Randi has lived in northern BC since 2010 after graduating from the University of Alberta with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Since her graduation, Randi has held different nursing positions with a focus in maternal-child health. Her career as a nurse started on Pediatrics in Prince George before transitioning into Public Health Nursing in the Omineca area. For 5 years, Randi worked as a generalist Public Health Nurse, finding her passion in perinatal wellness, early child development and community collaboration. With her husband, daughter and two Chihuahuas, Randi lives in Fraser Lake, currently working as the Regional Nursing Lead for Maternal, Infant, Child, Youth with Public Health Practice. When she is not nursing, Randi enjoys crafting, practicing yoga, learning to garden and being a mom! She is passionate about raising awareness for mental health and advocating for women, children and families.

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Human milk banking: Getting breast milk to the babies that need it most

(Co-authored with Katherine Schemenauer, Clinical Practice Lead at the University Hospital of Northern BC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)

A poster promoting the donation of breast milk.Did you know that there are four human milk banks in Canada? We are lucky to have one in BC: the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank, in Vancouver. This milk bank provides screened, pasteurized donor breast milk to hundreds of tiny, sick, or at-risk babies every year. Babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George are amongst these recipients.

Why is donor human milk important?

The gift of donor milk is life-changing for the smallest, sickest, and most vulnerable babies. When mothers are unwell, deliver their babies prematurely, or their babies are born sick, they may not have enough of their own milk in the first few days to provide for their own babies. The processed donor milk provides a safe, easy to digest first milk for their babies until they can grow stronger, and their mothers can provide enough of their own milk for their babies.

Human milk has been shown to reduce the incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) in newborns. NEC can be life threatening to an already at-risk baby. Human milk is easy to digest, making it the best option for premature digestive systems.

What is a donor milk collection depot?

A milk depot is a place where eligible donors can drop off their breast milk donations, once they have gone through a screening process. These depots then send the milk to the provincial milk bank in Vancouver for processing. Currently, there are 24 donor milk collection depots in BC, based out of hospitals and health units. Northern Health has one depot in Prince George, at UHNBC, in the NICU.

Northern Health uses donor milk in the NICU

The NICU at UHNBC uses up to 3 litres of human donor milk for up to 15 babies a month. Most babies in the NICU need between 12ml (less than a tablespoon) to 500ml (2 cups) of donor milk a day.

Got milk?

Women who are interested in donating their milk are welcome to contact the BC Provincial Milk Bank to learn more.

Additional resources:

Jeanne Hagreen

About Jeanne Hagreen

Jeanne has been a Lactation Consultant since 1993. She worked for Northern Health for 38 years, first as a nurse on the Maternal-Child Units, then 20.5 years as a Lactation Consultant. During this time, she also returned to school and earned her BSN from UNBC. Following her retirement at the end of September 2015, Jeanne has remained an active member of local, regional & provincial perinatal committees. She is also co-president of the BC Lactation Consultant Association. Jeanne was born in Whitehorse, Yukon and also lived in Campbell River, Victoria, Toronto and Vancouver. In 1975, she moved to Prince George with her husband and two small sons. In addition to her volunteer work, she is an avid knitter and reader. She enjoys living in the rural community of Salmon Valley with a small menagerie of animals, along with the wildlife that passes through her yard.

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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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Breastfeeding-friendly spaces: Make breastfeeding your business

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal stating, "we welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere."Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding takes an entire community, big and small. That’s why Northern Health is happy to support a provincial-wide initiative to encourage breastfeeding-friendly spaces across the north.

The Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces program has created a toolkit to help businesses and organizations create a welcoming, breastfeeding-friendly space for all families. The toolkit includes:

  • A window decal, featuring the universal breastfeeding symbol, to be prominently displayed in front windows. Displaying this decal shows your commitment to support breastfeeding.
  • A companion tip sheet that offers information about how employers and staff can support breastfeeding families.

The importance of breastfeeding

Did you know that a woman’s right to breastfeed is protected by law in BC? As per BC’s Ministry of Justice:

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

While these facts are not new, it may not be common knowledge. Northern Health is committed to supporting breastfeeding-friendly spaces across northern BC. We encourage all businesses and organizations to do their part to contribute to a positive community that recognizes the importance of breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal on the window of the library entrance.

Ignacio Albarracin, Public Service Manager for the Prince George Public Library, stands at the library’s entrance with the new provincial Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces decal displayed.

A closer look

The Prince George Public Library is one in a growing list of northern BC organizations that is proud to declare their facility to be a breastfeeding-friendly space.

“The public library is a welcoming space, it’s an inclusive space, and serving households with children is one of our core services,” says Ignacio Albarracin, the library’s Public Service Manager, about why they have put up the decal. “We understand that it’s the law, that women have a right to breastfeed anywhere, and this is also consistent with our values to make this a family-friendly space. We want mothers to feel that it’s safe and appropriate to bring their children here. We want them to feel that they’re not going to be bothered or judged if they breastfeed their children here.”

This breastfeeding-friendly spaces decal and tip sheet were created in partnership with Perinatal Services BC, all BC health authorities, the Ministry of Health, and the BC Baby Friendly Network. The new program will be replacing Northern Health’s existing “Growing for Gold” program, which was developed for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and featured a window decal stating, “Naturally, you can breastfeed here.” We appreciate the northern businesses and organizations who have supported this initiative and they can expect a new toolkit in the mail very soon.

When you order a decal, your business/facility will be added to the list of breastfeeding-friendly spaces on the Northern Health website. Help us send this important message: “We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere,” by requesting your decal now!

Want to do more? Consider displaying these posters as well:

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Welcome to 2018 Breastfeeding Week

An infographic featuring the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding, from the World Health Organization.

The 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, from the World Health Organization (WHO). Original: http://www.who.int/nutrition/bfhi/bfhi-poster-A2.pdf

Happy Breastfeeding Week! This week is celebrated annually in Canada from October 1-7 to promote the importance of breastfeeding, and it’s an opportune time to highlight breastfeeding as the foundation of lifelong good health for babies and mothers.

Northern Health is committed to supporting facilities and communities to adopt the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) 10 Steps recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The BFI is a world-wide effort to implement practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

As a registered nurse and mother of two breastfed children, I find Breastfeeding Week to be a great time to reflect on my breastfeeding experience – even from 15 years ago! As a parent, the BFI provides a framework that reassures me that hospitals and communities are making efforts to achieve standardization of these internationally endorsed 10 steps. Parents may use these 10 steps to help guide their decisions regarding infant feeding and breastfeeding and the supports they may expect from their care providers.

Here are some highlights of how hospitals and communities support mothers to breastfeed (adapted from the WHO’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding):

  1. Hospital Policies – not promoting infant formulas, bottles or teats; making breastfeeding care standard practice; keeping track of support for breastfeeding.
  2. Staff Education – training staff on supporting mothers to breastfeed; assessing health workers’ knowledge and skills.
  3. Prenatal Care – discussing the importance of breastfeeding for babies and mothers; preparing women in how to feed their baby.
  4. Care Right After Birth – encouraging skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby soon after birth; helping mothers to put their baby to the breast right away.
  5. Support Mothers With Breastfeeding – checking positioning, attachment and suckling; giving practical breastfeeding support; helping mothers with common breastfeeding problems.
  6. Supplementing – giving only breastmilk unless there are medical reasons; prioritizing donor human milk when a supplement is needed; helping mothers who want to formula feed do so safely.
  7. Rooming-In – letting mothers and their babies stay together day and night; making sure that mothers of sick babies can stay near their baby.
  8. Responsive Feeding – Helping mothers know when their baby is hungry; not limiting breastfeeding times.
  9. Bottles, Teats and Pacifiers – counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.
  10. Discharge – referring mothers to community resources for breastfeeding support; working with communities to improve breastfeeding support services.

As we celebrate breastfeeding this week, I invite you to look forward to additional posts throughout Breastfeeding Week 2018!

Vanessa Salmons

About Vanessa Salmons

Vanessa is a registered nurse and Northern Health’s Early Childhood Development lead for preventive public health. Located in Quesnel, Vanessa supports prenatal, postpartum and family health services across the north. She is married with two children and is always busy with the family’s many activities. Work/life balance is important to Vanessa. When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends entertaining and cooking. Vanessa stays active through walking or running with her dog Maggie, spinning and circuit training. A good game of golf or a good book is always a bonus!

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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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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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Juggling the joys (and challenges) of breastfeeding my toddler

Jovie and her proud mama!

Having a mommy and daddy who work full-time is hard for a toddler. Despite a busy schedule, our two-year old daughter, Jovie, continues to enjoy breastfeeding. She always looks forward to snuggles after daycare – a time when she can have “mama num-num” (her name for breastfeeding!).

I’ve been grateful to be able to follow the recommendations from the World Health OrganizationHealth Canada, the Dietitians of Canada, and the Canadian Pediatric Society:

  • To exclusively breastfeed Jovie for the first six months of her life,
  • To introduce solid foods and other fluids around six months (her first meal with solid foods was turkey dinner at her first Christmas!), and
  • To continue breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.

Learning to mother through breastfeeding has been an important part of my journey as a first-time mom. I’m constantly amazed by the many health benefits it has for both toddlers and mommies alike. Here are some of the reasons why I’m continuing to breastfeed Jovie during her toddler years, even while juggling a busy work schedule.

The benefits for breastfed toddlers can include:

  • Enhanced emotional security and comfort, as it helps them to achieve independence at their own pace.
  • Better jaw and tooth development for improved speech and oral health.
  • Strengthened immune systems and protection from chronic diseases and acute infections (especially with all the exposure they have to germs at daycare!).

The benefits for breastfeeding moms include:

  • Improved mental wellness – it’s a great opportunity for her to practice mindfulness, connect with her toddler, and tune into her own body.
  • Lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancers – the longer she breastfeeds, the lower her risk of cancer.
  • Help adjusting to being away from home while working (when Jovie was younger, I visited her daycare during my lunch break to give her “mama num-num”!).

There’s another benefit that may not be regularly considered: it helps to normalize breastfeeding in our society, especially when done in public.

Women have the right to breastfeed their toddler anytime, anywhere.

I’m thankful my daughter’s and my journey has been generally positive, but I’ve definitely experienced a few raised eyebrows myself along the way! In our Western society, breastfeeding toddlers are less understood and much less accepted than in other parts of the world. This is why it’s so important to support mothers along their breastfeeding journey.

Evidence shows that women who receive continued support are more likely to breastfeed their children for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, many families are lacking the support they need. Wondering how you can help? Check out the Growing for Gold program that’s improving breastfeeding support for moms across the North!

As a breastfeeding mom, I know how important support has been for us. Do you know of a mother-child dyad who is breastfeeding beyond infancy? Here are a few resources to help you on your journey to strengthen your support for them:

Randi Parsons

About Randi Parsons

Randi has lived in northern BC since 2010 after graduating from the University of Alberta with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Since her graduation, Randi has held different nursing positions with a focus in maternal-child health. Her career as a nurse started on Pediatrics in Prince George before transitioning into Public Health Nursing in the Omineca area. For 5 years, Randi worked as a generalist Public Health Nurse, finding her passion in perinatal wellness, early child development and community collaboration. With her husband, daughter and two Chihuahuas, Randi lives in Fraser Lake, currently working as the Regional Nursing Lead for Maternal, Infant, Child, Youth with Public Health Practice. When she is not nursing, Randi enjoys crafting, practicing yoga, learning to garden and being a mom! She is passionate about raising awareness for mental health and advocating for women, children and families.

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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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