Healthy Living in the North

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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Sustaining breastfeeding together: She can do it, you can help

breastfeeding momA cup of hot tea. A tasty meal. A much-needed foot rub. In my early postpartum days, these supportive gestures from my husband helped while I was learning how to breastfeed our daughter, Jovie.

Like most moms, I was feeling the exhaustion that accompanies a new baby. Yet, I can recall feeling empowered and well cared for by my family, friends, and health care providers. My confidence as a mother gradually increased and together, Jovie and I grew and learned through our breastfeeding journey; today, even though she is now a busy toddler, we continue to breastfeed.

We know that most women want to breastfeed their babies; nature has equipped mothers and babies with strong instincts to help them get started. Yet, it’s more common to hear that “breastfeeding is natural” rather than its potential challenges. Moms and their little ones will need time and practice to learn how to breastfeed, and support from others during this time can be so valuable.

What types of support do women benefit from?

  • Family support. For all moms, learning to breastfeed can be easier when women have the support of their family. All relatives can have a role: grandparents, parents, siblings, and extended family. Offering emotional support through active listening will be deeply appreciated by new moms. Practical support is equally important, such as doing housework or picking up groceries. I’m grateful for my family; their support truly made a difference for Jovie and me, both in the early days and over the last two years more generally.
  • Spousal support. Getting support from her significant other can help a woman to build her comfort and confidence with breastfeeding. Husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or a same-sex couple: all mothers benefit from support. As a child, I was raised in a single parent home and learned about breastfeeding by watching my mom care for my younger siblings. Even at a young age, it was apparent to me how much my mom benefited from having support, including help with simple household tasks and a visit from a close friend.
  • Peer support. A friend, a neighbour, or any other mother who has had a positive experience with breastfeeding can be a great source of support. They can offer emotional support, encouragement, and simple tips and tricks. I found peer support online through a Facebook group of other moms; some of these gals are my dearest friends today!
  • Community-based support. Beyond their close circle of support, women may appreciate other supports in their community. Health care providers, breastfeeding groups, and advocates (such as Lactation Consultants and La Leche League leaders) are additional resources that can enhance a woman’s knowledge, skill, and confidence to breastfeed her baby. Attending groups with Jovie was one of my favourite sources of support; it’s empowering to be part of a community of breastfeeding mothers.

Seeing a mother and her baby thrive in their breastfeeding journey is rewarding. By offering support, this can enhance relationships and improve the health of mothers, babies, families, friendships, and communities. You don’t have to be a breastfeeding expert to provide support to a mom and her baby; we can all have a role in “sustaining breastfeeding together.”

Eager to learn how you can protect, promote, and support breastfeeding? Check out these resources:

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 breastfeeding mean to you?

lindsay470w

Public health nurse Lindsay with her two children.

Did you know October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada?  This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: An Investment in Healthy Communities. It’s a great time to recognize and promote the far-reaching social, environmental, and health benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers, and resilient communities. I recently spoke to Lindsay Willoner, a public health nurse and mother of two, about her perspective of the joys of breastfeeding and what breastfeeding means to her and her children.

“As a working mother of two, very little has brought me more joy than being able to successfully breastfeed both my children to the age of 1 year old and beyond. Many times I felt undervalued, in all aspects of my life, as I know many mothers do, because both breastfeeding and being a mother have challenges that most mothers must endure. The sheer love and devotion between both mother and baby always amazes me. I find such comfort, warmth, and peace with still feeding my youngest who is now 17 months old. It is our time to sit, be still, slow down, and absorb the busy world around us. It is at these times that I find the most relaxation from a crazy, hectic life. Sometimes I think about how I will never get this time back with my growing baby, and to just be in love with every moment together is what’s most important to me.”

Thank you Lindsay for sharing your experiences with breastfeeding! Do you have a breastfeeding story or experience to share? Tell us what breastfeeding means to you, your family, and your community by entering Northern Health’s World Breastfeeding Week contest before October 7!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

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

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