Healthy Living in the North

Why skin-to-skin care is important for your baby’s well-being

Have you ever thought about having your baby skin-to-skin with you after birth and in the first few weeks after birth? Many parents have never thought about holding their baby skin-to-skin until they are pregnant and skin-to-skin is mentioned as an option right after birth. Often the reaction at that time is “Yuck. Can you at least dry the baby off first?”

Most of us don’t think about the millions and millions of bugs (flora) that are on and in our body until we are asked about skin-to-skin. However, this flora, making up our own unique ecosystems, is absolutely essential for health and well-being. So how does a baby acquire flora?

mother holding breastfeeding baby

Babies need repeated doses of skin-to-skin to help develop a healthy body ecosystem.

Babies come out of a relatively sterile environment so they need to be colonized by healthy bugs, rather than ones that can cause them to get sick. Most babies delivered vaginally get a healthy dose of good bugs during the delivery process, although this is just some of the flora they need. Babies born via caesarean section are less likely to get these bugs and more likely to pick up other ones from their surroundings.

Developing a healthy range of good bugs is important for all babies. One of the easiest ways for babies to get a range of healthy flora is from being skin-to-skin with a parent right after birth. If parents are not available, then other family members work almost as well, as families share many bugs in common. Spending time skin-to-skin right after birth is important but it is also important in the days and weeks after birth as babies need repeated doses of skin-to-skin to help develop a healthy body ecosystem.

Spending time skin-to-skin is not just about introduction to healthy bugs; here are some other benefits:

  • Skin-to-skin helps babies maintain their temperature.
  • Skin-to-skin helps maintain adequate sugar levels in their bloodstream.
  • Skin-to-skin helps develop normal breathing patterns quicker after birth.
  • Babies cry less often if they spend time skin-to-skin.
  • Babies often breastfeed better if they spend time skin-to-skin. For babies who are not breastfeeding, spending time skin-to-skin is particularly helpful because they cannot pick up a parent’s flora as easily as they are usually not right against a parent’s skin like babies who breastfeed.

We encourage you to think about spending time skin-to-skin with your baby so your baby can develop a healthy body ecosystem at the same time as you get to know your baby.

About Jane Ritchey

Jane Ritchey was previously the Interim Executive Lead for the Perinatal Program. (Jane has recently retired from Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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What is MILK? It’s time to protect, promote, and support maternal & child health!

(Note: co-authored by Sarah Gray, Primary Care Nurse)

As a Lactation Consultant with Northern Health and a new mother, I am deeply passionate about maternal and child health. It’s an honour to support families along their desired feeding journey. I strive to provide evidence-based information that empowers women and their families to make the best decisions. In my work, I keep my personal birthing and feeding journey close to mind. I find it important to connect with families as a fellow parent, as this provides another level of support.

Through an intimate and artistic lens, MILK brings a universal perspective on the politics, commercialization, and controversies surrounding birth and infant feeding over the canvas of stunningly beautiful visuals and poignant voices from around the globe.” (www.milkhood.com, 2017)

The communities of Prince George and Smithers are hosting an exciting opportunity to broaden the exposure of birthing and infant feeding on a global level. I encourage the public to take advantage of the free screenings of MILK: Born into this World. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with key community stakeholders to highlight the challenges and opportunities that exist within our communities.

Prince George Screening
Location: Prince George Public Library (Bob Harkins Branch)
Address: 888 Canada Games Way, Prince George, BC V2L 5T6
Date: Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Registration: Drop-in. Limited seating (maximum 100 people)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/836744646495537

Smithers Screening
Location: Smithers Public Library
Address: 3817 Alfred Avenue, Smithers, BC V0J 2N0
Date: Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Time: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Registration: Drop-in. Limited seating (maximum 50 people)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1401529189924722

This documentary has caught the eye of leaders around the world; our own Mm. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau shares her passion for the MILK documentary and the education it provides. This documentary is not focused solely on the personal stories of mothers; rather it highlights the important roles within the community to support each birthing and feeding journey.

Reflect on your personal experiences of birthing and infant feeding. What challenges come to mind, and how can we come together as a community to provide support to families? With the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on breastfeeding, as a community, we need to continue to promote the normalcy and importance of breastfeeding.

It’s time to get involved! Attend a screening of MILK and follow MILK on social media!

Facebook: facebook.com/MilkTheFilm
Twitter: @MilkTheFilm
Instagram: @MilkTheFilm

Brittney McCullough

About Brittney McCullough

Brittney, born and raised in Prince George, graduated as a registered nurse in 2012 from UNBC. She completed her Perinatal Specialty Certificate in 2013, and IBCLC in 2017, and maternal and child health has always been her passion. She has recently taken a new role as a Lactation Consultant for Northern Health. She enjoys the northern outdoors and all that it offers, especially spending weekends at the cabin. With her first child born in 2016, her daily life is all about making memories with family and friends.

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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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World Breastfeeding Week: One mom’s story

Child at breast.

With the support of a daycare, one Prince George mom has been able to keep up breastfeeding while balancing work demands. How can you support breastfeeding in your community?

October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada. The theme for the week this year is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work. We all have a role to play in supporting mothers to balance work and family demands. For me, this story of a working mom in Prince George is a great example of how we can support breastfeeding and strike this balance. Many thanks to the mom who shared this story and photo with me:

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I was committed to finding ways to spend as much time with my son as possible, and to keeping up breastfeeding. So, as I interviewed and visited daycares, one of the most important questions I asked was whether the care provider was open to me visiting on my lunch hour to nurse my son. Both my previous and current daycares were very accommodating by providing us with a quiet and comfortable place to nurse. I’m proud to say that I’ve been spending lunch hours with my son for a full year now! Not only is it best for his healthy physical development, it’s also best to foster our attachment. And it’s a lovely midday break from the stresses and worries of work!

How can you support breastfeeding at home, at work, and in your community?

Stacy Hake

About Stacy Hake

Stacy is the Administrative Assistant for the Perinatal Program. She started with Northern Health at Mental Health & Addiction Services before moving over to the Northeast Medical Health Officer’s office and then onto the Perinatal Program. She lives and works in Fort St. John with her husband, two children and mother-in-law. When not working, she volunteers with her children’s dance/theatre productions and cheers during swimming lessons. (Stacey no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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