A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Officer, Women’s Health, Office of the Chief Medical Officer
The theme of this year's World Breastfeeding Week, a public health event created by the World Health Organization (WHO), is "Breastfeeding: Foundation of life."
It's a time to celebrate and promote breastfeeding around the world – and as your health and wellness partners, the FNHA is definitely on board with that! We believe that breastfeeding is a beautiful, wonderful and foundational choice for you and your baby.
It's also a very personal choice. Since it's World Breastfeeding Week, this message will focus on the many benefits of breastfeeding, and provide some resources for women who are considering making this choice. But before I begin, I'd like to emphasize that, as a mother who is also a women's health specialist, I recognize that some mothers may choose not to breastfeed – or may be unable to. Please know that if this is your situation, the FNHA is supportive of your journey too. We know that every mother and baby is unique, as is every situation, and that every mother will make the choices that are right for them and their babies. Because, of course, the most important part of "breastfed" is "fed"— so, fed is best!
Breastfeeding is both traditional and beneficial
For many Indigenous women, breastmilk is "the first traditional food we give our growing babies, and it provides food security," says my colleague Lucy Barney, FNHA Clinical Nurse Specialist, Perinatal Care, who is from the T'ít'q'et First Nation. "Breastfeeding is Creator's gift to mothers and babies, a special tradition we can continue forever. Breastfeeding carries our ancestors' strength to our babies to keep our future generations healthy."
Indeed, there is evidence that breastfeeding provides immunity against infectious illnesses during the first and second years, according to studies published by the Canadian Paediatric Society. Because of this, the FNHA agrees with the CPS's recommendation that breastfeeding continue for up to two years or beyond – and with its observation that breastfeeding longer may have a protective effect against obesity in childhood as well as against diabetes 1 and 2 for both mothers and babies. Further, findings have consistently shown a decreased risk of maternal breast cancer with longer durations of breastfeeding,
Breastfeeding is both nourishing and nurturing
Did you know, breastfeeding releases the "love hormone," oxytocin?! This is why many moms who breastfeed feel it is a wonderful bonding experience! So, breastfeeding is not only nourishing but nurturing! On top of that, it's free, it's easier on our environment (less packaging or production) and it's available when and where your baby needs it! And as if all of this isn't enough, breastfeeding can also burn calories!
Breastfeeding resources for your motherhood journey
Barbara Webster, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Maternal Child Health, in the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer, is working with our colleague Lucy on breastfeeding resources for BC First Nations that provide education, information and tips. It will include a guidebook/toolkit, a reference booklet to assist facilitators with discussing the topic, and much more, and it will be ready in the fall – they're hoping either for Canada's National Breastfeeding Week (in October) or an upcoming FNHA Nursing Forum (in November).
"We're also working on two booklets to go with these resources that are specifically for community members," says Barbara. "The first will be on preparing for the breastfeeding journey using the wellness wheel, and the second will be on breastfeeding your baby, including recommendations for supplementary and complementary feeding. All of these resources will be available on our website and distributed throughout the province. Meanwhile, we encourage you to check out the resources we do have at present, and if you have any questions, to reach out to your local community health nurse or primary care provider or call HealthLink BC's 8-1-1, a toll free telephone line to talk to nurses, pharmacists, dietitians & health navigators."
For more information about breastfeeding, visit:
• The Canadian Paediatric Society's website at https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/nutrition-healthy-term-infants-6-to-24-months
• The Shibogama First Nations Council's video, "Creator's Gift to Mothers," at
• Breastfeeding Information for Indigenous Families Website & Resources
• Healthy Families BC's Website & Resources
• La Leche League Canada
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