The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees mothers the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. But that doesn’t mean they’re all taking advantage of it.
In 2007-2008, 95 per cent of B.C. mothers started to breastfeed their newborns, compared with a Canadian average of 87 per cent. However, after six months — the minimum recommended time for exclusive breastfeeding — the numbers dropped to 38 per cent in B.C. and 23 per cent in Canada.
“We’re a non-breastfeeding society,” said public health nurse Claire Bouchard. “That’s not to say formula is wrong, but breastfeeding needs support.”
That’s why a support group starting Nov. 1 is aiming to encourage the practice in the Creston Valley.
Aside from the environmental and financial benefits, breastfeeding also has a lasting impact on the health of both mother and child. For the baby, it protects against respiratory and digestive illnesses, diabetes and obesity, and some childhood leukemias, while the mother receives a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis and heart disease.
“Even though it’s the most natural thing to do, it’s not without its difficulties,” said Bouchard. “There are all kinds of strange myths and ideas about how long breastfeeding should go on.”
If, for example, the baby is going through a growth spurt, mothers may worry they won’t have enough milk.
“There’s always a helpful aunt to say, ‘You don’t have enough milk. Give the baby a bottle,’ not realizing that a growth spurt is only three or four days,” said Bouchard.
The drop-in support group will help clarify that sort of misinformation, as well as provide mutual support for new mothers, babies and support people.
“They’re often the deal breakers,” said Bouchard. “If support people aren’t supportive and you’re having a wobbly time, that’s the make or break.”
And breastfeeding isn’t something that mothers should miss out on.
“I had one mom say, ‘I love breastfeeding — it’s liquid love,’ ” said Bouchard.
The breastfeeding support group runs from 1:30-3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at Family Place. located at the Creston Education Centre. Older children are welcome. For more information, contact Claire Bouchard at 250-428-3878.