Healthy Living in the North

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 started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

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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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Breastfeeding: a cultural approach can make all the difference

In 1977, Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Plains Cree woman from the Piapot reserve, appeared on Sesame Street explaining breastfeeding to Big Bird as she breastfed her son, Dakota “Cody” Starblanket Wolfchild. This was the first time breastfeeding had been shown on a major television station. At the time, this was quite radical. Mothers had been taught since the early 1900s that they should rely on experts for advice and they were recommending formula. In 1977, to push back against “experts” to promote breastfeeding was groundbreaking.

Creating cultural connection through breastfeeding
Since then, we’ve learnt a lot about about the importance of culture in the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and we’re beginning to understand the role breastfeeding plays in connecting to culture. Breastfeeding creates a strong physical bond between mothers and babies that carries the cultural values and beliefs of the mother to the child, connecting the child to the past and future. Research shows that Indigenous moms who have strong cultural and spiritual resources to turn to, take up and keep up breastfeeding, at rates better than the overall population of nursing mothers. For example, Rhodes (2008) found Indigenous women most connected to traditional ways were sixteen times more likely to breastfeed.

The valuable contributions culture can bring to breastfeeding and health has been weakened by colonization. Widespread disruption of home, family and cultural connections has harmed generations of Indigenous people in Canada through Residential Schools, Indian Hospitals, and other high level policies.The widespread disruption caused by colonization meant the loss of mothers, aunties, and grandmothers who were crucial to the success of young mothers’ breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding & child health
Not breastfeeding has a high price.The report on child health released by Northern Health’s Chief Medical Health officer last year, showed rates of early childhood dental caries/cavities (ECC) in northern BC five times the provincial average, and children living in northern regions undergo surgery for dental issues at three times the provincial average. The risk for early childhood caries is greater in some Indigenous communites with higher rates of bottle feeding and, in these cases, a cultural approach to breastfeeding is an effective protective factor against ECC.(See: Cidro et al. Breast feeding practices as cultural interventions for early childhood caries in Cree communities, 2015.)

Creating healthy cultural practice
Supporting Indigenous mothers will require extra care from health care providers. Understanding the importance of culture in supporting breastfeeding can reduce the specific and systemic barriers that exist for Indigenous mothers. Many mothers are hungry for the connection between themselves, their children, and their culture. Many loved ones and community members may also want to understand and reclaim their roles in supporting breastfeeding as a cultural practice.

You could be an important bridge for reclaiming these connections. Questions to ask a breastfeeding mother could include:

  • Would you like an Elder or trusted loved one to be part of the visit?
  • Are there any cultural and traditional practices that would be helpful for you?
  • Is there anything special that would help you in breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding, supported as a healthy cultural practice, promises much for improving and restoring health and well-being within Indigenous communities. Providing culturally safe services is a call to action: what can we do to promote breastfeeding in a culturally safe way for the Indigenous mothers in our care? What is it you can do?

Overall,  being aware of the underlying impacts of past negative experiences and how they’ve influenced Indigenous people’s encounters with the health care system is most important. If you can do this, you will send the message that you know about and are ready to respect the cultural bonds of breastfeeding.

We know that discussion of sensitive topics like this may cause distress. Please ensure you or the people you are working with have access to the supports you need.

Want to learn more? Check out:

 

Citations:

  • Rhodes et al. American Indian Breastfeeding Attitudes and Practices in Minnesota Maternal and Child Health Journal July 2008, Volume 12, Supplement 1, pp 46–54
  • Buffy Sainte-Marie started CradleBoard a site to improve curriculum. You can access this interactive web site at http://www.cradleboard.org/2000/mission.html though not all links work.
  • Cidrio, et al. feeding practices as cultural interventions for early childhood caries in Cree communities https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4409764/
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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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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10 tips for talking to kids about tobacco

Family walking in woods.

Talk to your kids about tobacco!

You can make a difference!

1. Don’t assume kids will learn all they need to know to be tobacco free at school and that you don’t need to get involved. Parents can help their kids to avoid the use of tobacco.

2. Let them know how you feel about tobacco use and help them develop the skills to say no to tobacco.

3. Kids do listen. They may feel a need to rebel at first but they will value the message, especially coming from you.

4. Make an emotional appeal – telling them how hurt or disappointed you would be by their smoking or chewing will have more impact than reasoning with them about the health dangers.

5. Know that peer pressure is often used as an excuse for tobacco use – it may provide an opportunity to start, but kids continue to smoke or chew for individual reasons.

6. Be a good role model – if you do smoke or chew, explain that you know it’s wrong and ask them to help you quit. If you aren’t ready to quit, share the reasons why you started, how hard it’s been to quit, and how you don’t want them to struggle with the same addiction you have.

7. Encourage your children to never try tobacco. It may only take a few cigarettes to become addicted. Instead, encourage them to develop healthy lifestyles and avoid the use of tobacco.

8. Have extended family support to keep kids tobacco free – often older siblings or other relatives introduce them to smoking or chewing.

9. Don’t believe that smoking or chewing is safer than “something else” – most kids are at real and greater risk from tobacco use than from other dangers. Research shows smoking is a gateway to other drug use.

10. It’s never too late to intervene. Kids are flexible and they can change for the right reasons.


In this article, as in most public health messaging, “tobacco” is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and is a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in B.C. for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Ringing the gong

Boy beside a shooting target

With his son wanting to give target shooting a try, Reg took him out to the local range in Terrace. For Reg, it’s all about being involved and “it’s not really about target shooting.”

I have to admit that during my time in the army, I really enjoyed the time spent on the firing range. Now, I haven’t done any target shooting for a long time, but it’s something that I’ve recently gotten back into. It’s also something my youngest son wanted to try, so we’ve been spending time at the local rifle range in Terrace.

At the back of the small-bore range, a steel gong has been set up at a distance of about one hundred yards. It’s not all that easy to hit considering that we’re shooting a .22 caliber rifle without the aid of a scope. Nonetheless, my son likes to try to hit it.

To be honest, it’s not really about target shooting. It’s about being an involved father and acknowledging the role fathers play in the healthy development of their children. With June 19 being Father’s Day this year, it’s an important topic to talk about.

Being an involved father takes work, but the impact you have on your child’s life is huge. To be an involved father takes consistency, compassion, attention, and time. However, it’s worth the effort.

  • Involved fathers bolster their child’s cognitive development. They help their children develop critical thinking skills, motivation, communication skills, and a sense of independence that will benefit them throughout their lifetimes.
  • Children of involved fathers develop better social skills and ways to cope with the emotional stresses of life. Involved fathers can teach their children how to develop empathy and strong friendships. These skills last a lifetime and help children learn how to build successful relationships.
  • Involved fathers provide a good role model for their children. Having a good role model can help children stay clear of problems with the law or issues with substance abuse.
  • Not only do children benefit from involved fathers, but the relationship between father and mother can benefit as well. I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying about a happy wife.
Taking aim at a shooting range.

What fun ways can you connect with your kids?

While I mentioned that being an involved father takes work, it’s important to remember that you also need to find some fun ways to connect with your children. Put on a cape and become a sidekick for your superhero son. Grab an apron and join your daughter’s tea party. Find a way to be a part of your child’s world.

Last time we went to the range, my son loaded ten rounds and told me that he was going to shoot all of them at the gong. After he hit it on the first shot, he looked at me, smiled slightly and raised one finger. When he raised five fingers, his smile was a little bigger.

I have to admit; at this point, I thought I was doing a good job with teaching him to shoot.

However, speaking as a father, I know it won’t always be this way. You won’t always hit the target, let alone the bulls-eye. There will be times when you’re tired, frustrated and bewildered.

Fatherhood can be trying.

Still, there will be many more times when you do hit the bulls-eye. There will be moments that make you smile and realize that being a father is one of the greatest joys a man can experience.

Like when my son raised 10 fingers and gave me one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen.

So on this Father’s Day, go out and make a few more of those moments to cherish.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Bonding with your baby

Father and daughter

“Well-loved babies do better in every way.” How can you spend time bonding with your baby?

Have you ever been told that carrying or holding your baby too much will spoil them? This is a common myth held by many parents and caregivers. In fact, the opposite is true!

Research has shown that well-loved babies do better in every way. The first six months are an important time for you and your baby. Take time to give love, hugs, smiles and lots of reassurance. Emotional attachment is one of the keys to raising a happy, confident child.

The BC Healthy Child Development Alliance has some simple steps you can take to help ensure a good, close connection with your baby:

Spend time face-to-face with your baby.

  • Take time each day to cuddle and play with your baby up close.
  • Spend time watching what your baby does and responding to facial expressions and sounds by imitating them.
  • Talk to your baby. Research shows that the more words a baby hears each day, the better they learn.

Observe your baby.

Watch and listen to your baby to learn what your baby wants or needs. Here are some cues to what your baby is “saying” to you:

  • Turns away, does not want eye contact: “I need rest.”
  • Frowns, starts to cry, pulls away: “I am upset, lonely, sick or hurt.”
  • Cries, has wide open eyes, stiffens body, arches spine or turns away from you: “I am in distress, upset or afraid.”
  • Reaches for you, follows you (if a walking toddler), face has a sad look – maybe a trembling lip: “I need you.”
  • Smiles, giggles, gazes at you, reaches for you, makes cooing sounds: “I like that.”

Notice the cues that say “distress.”

  • Babies who are in distress and whose parents respond promptly (within 1-2 minutes) cry less after the first year.
  • Babies beyond four months old can handle short periods of mild distress; giving them a chance to calm themselves helps them to learn new skills and to sleep longer periods at night.

Delight in your baby.

  • Help your baby explore and play by finding ways to play together (e.g., stacking cups or playing with blocks or stuffed toys).
  • Welcome your baby when he or she needs to cuddle or comes to you for comfort.

Get down on the floor with your baby.

  • Every baby needs “tummy time” on a mat or blanket set on the floor. This is a time when your baby will exercise muscles or discover new ways to move.
  • Spend time watching what your baby does and respond to your baby’s cues.

For more information and to learn more ways to build attachment and help your child adjust to their emotions, visit:


This article was originally published in Healthier You magazine. Read the full Summer 2016 issue all about healthy children below!

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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Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies

At last, this exciting time has come: your baby is nearing 6 months old and can start to eat solid foods! Their tiny digestive system is now developed enough to handle many of the foods you and your family enjoy! Hooray!

…Now what?!

Giving your baby solid foods for the first time can be both exciting and intimidating. By 6 months, your baby is ready to learn to eat foods with different flavours and textures. He or she needs more nutrients than breast milk or formula can provide. Iron is especially important because your baby only has enough at birth to provide him or her until around 6 months. For this reason, babies’ first foods should be those rich in iron to ensure they have enough of this valuable nutrient for proper growth and development.

Plate of first foods

Babies’ first foods should be those rich in iron. There are lots of options for baby to explore!

Some examples include:

  • Soft, well-cooked meats and poultry (beef, moose, elk, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb)
  • Lumpy-mashed beans, legumes and lentils
  • Tender cooked eggs and tofu
  • Deboned and flaked fish
  • Iron-fortified infant cereal

Meats and poultry can be boiled or poached, and should be ground, minced or mashed. Fish can be poached or baked after removing the skin and bones. Well-cooked beans, lentils, and hard-boiled eggs can be mashed with a fork or potato masher. HealthLink BC has some great recipes for your 6-9 month old baby.

It’s important to make sure your little one is being provided with a variety of soft textures and finger foods. Progressing quickly from puree to soft and lumpy textured foods will encourage your baby to try and enjoy a variety of foods as they get older. Similarly, introducing finger foods early helps your baby get used to different food textures, improves coordination, and encourages self-feeding.

When your baby is eating iron-rich foods two or more times per day, start to offer other foods such as cooked vegetables, soft or cooked fruit, yogurt, pasteurized cheeses and cooked pasta or rice. If you would like to introduce whole cow’s milk, do so when your baby is 9-12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods. This will ensure their digestive system is developed enough to digest cow’s milk and they will not turn down iron-rich foods due to filling up on milk.

Lastly, make mealtimes fun! If he or she is showing interest in feeding him- or herself, let your baby eat with their hands, explore their food and get messy. Allow your little one to eat as much or as little as they want. They will learn to follow their hunger and fullness cues, which will help them build lifelong eating skills and think about food in a positive way.

You can find more information about introducing solid foods and iron-rich first foods from the links below or by contacting HealthLink BC dietitians via email or by dialing 8-1-1.

Resources

Northern Health

HealthLinkBC

Karli Nordman

About Karli Nordman

Karli is a Dietetic Intern completing her internship throughout Northern Health. She has had a growing interest in food and nutrition for as long as she can remember and is a big advocate for a food first approach to overall health and happiness. Her passions are evenly divided between her career path and being outdoors - which makes northern B.C. the perfect place to both learn and explore.

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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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