A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Women’s Health Director, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Toni Winterhoff, Specialist, Healthy Children, FNHA Community Health & Wellness, Programs & Services
Indigenous Milk Medicine Week, we celebrate and honour Indigenous life-givers and their unique milk-feeding experiences. Life-giving and milk-feeding are both awe-inspiring powers, testaments to the strength and wonder of the human body!
This week-long Indigenous Milk Medicine celebration is a collaborative effort among Indigenous breastfeeding counsellors, breastfeeding advocates, community health nurses, lactation consultants, and health care providers involved in the perinatal time. All of us believe that mother's milk is the first traditional food and that
breastfeeding is a right that should be protected and supported when possible.
At the same time, we know there are families who are unable to, or who choose not to, milk-feed from their own bodies. They too are included in the celebration: after all, the ability to nourish, care for, and sustain a tiny human being, whether carried in or milk-fed from our own bodies – or not – is a truly incredible feat! We honour and respect the diversity of all Indigenous milk-feeding experiences, and believe FED is best.
Milk-feeding is not just about providing nutrition; it's a powerful bond between parent and child. The act itself is a manifestation of love and dedication. Life givers are warriors in that they can grow life within, bring it into this world, protect and nurture it, and provide sustenance through milk-feeding. It's an astonishing display of innate strength and power.
Although formula or donor milk are both viable choices (again, FED is best), breast milk is considered the best food for babies in the first year of life. The benefits of breast milk are numerous:
“There's such a feeling of power that my body, this mother body, is able to produce the food that nourishes my baby, even after she's come out of the womb," says Jessie Hemphill (Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations). “To continue to provide for her that way made me feel powerful and connected, and just feels like such a universal experience, or near-universal experience, that generations of women have experienced. There's something about breastfeeding and the way that it connects our own well-being so directly to our children. The better I take care of myself the better I am able to take care of my little one."
Here are some links to resources you might find helpful: