Breast/chestfeeding is one of the most important health decisions a parent can make to support the nutrition, immunity, growth and development of their infants and toddlers.
Usually celebrated internationally each year in August, in Canada we celebrate World Breast/Chestfeeding Week from Oct. 1-7. October is the tenth month of the year and symbolizes the first week of a baby's life after nine months of pregnancy, when a baby would begin to breast/chestfeed.
Not only is breastmilk important for wellness, it is also the first traditional food and the first traditional food comes from parents who are the first teachers in life. Page 27 of the Parents as First Teachers resource booklet sums up why breast/chestfeeding is so important for bonding:
Newborns should be breastfed as soon as possible after birth. Your baby is born with the instinct to breastfeed. Holding your baby skin-to-skin helps with breastfeeding. Babies can smell their mother's breast milk and if left in skin-to-skin contact, will begin looking for your breast usually within an hour following birth. Holding your baby skin-to-skin also helps trigger the release of hormones (Oxytocin) which helps increase your milk supply and helps you bond with your baby.
Exclusive breast/chestfeeding is recommended for infants up to six months of age and to continue in conjunction with foods up to and beyond two years of age.
Here are some ways you can bond with your baby during breast/chestfeeding:
Remember the Breast/Chestfeeding Wellness Teachings:
W is for Wellness. Breastmilk is the first traditional food.
E is for Empowerment. Breast/chest feeding can be empowering.
L is for Learning to parent is a team effort. It takes a community to raise a child.
L is for Listening to the mother's needs and questions.
N is for No mother and baby left behind.
E is for Excellence, keeping both mother and baby strong.
S is for Support, both encouragement and practical support in breast/chest feeding.
S is for Sustainability. “Breastmilk flows through our ancestors and to our future generations."
Although we encourage and honour breast/chestfeeding, it's important to recognize that a parent may choose to—or be unable to—breast/chestfeed for a variety of reasons. Ultimately, it is the choice of the parent.
In community, there are community health nurses and community / family support / maternal child health staff who can support a family to have the respectful and relevant information they need in order to make an informed decision on how they would like to feed their baby. They can also support you if you need assistance with breast/chestfeeding. It is OK to ask for help.
Celebrate Breast/Chestfeeding Week!
In honour of Canada's National Breastfeeding Week, the Provincial Health Services Authority, Perinatal Services BC and Providence Health Care are holding a webinar on Oct. 6 from noon to 1 p.m. The webinar is titled, From the first hour of life: Improving infant and young child feeding practices. You can register for the Zoom link here.
Resources and Support
Do you have questions about breast/chestfeeding? The Maternity and Babies Advice Line provides services to expectant mothers and new parents, guardians or caregivers of babies in rural and remote First Nations communities in BC. Family members and healthcare providers can also receive support.