Health Canada recommends that babies be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months of their lives. Breastfeeding is recommended to continue after solid foods are introduced up to 2 years of age or longer.
Breastfeeding a child has shown to have numerous health, social, economic and environmental benefits to both the child, the family and the community. Here are some:
- Breast milk is custom-made by each mother for her own baby. It contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. As babies grow, the milk changes to meet the babies’ needs. Human milk is easier than formula to digest.
- Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease.
- Research shows that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.
- When breastfeeding, parents don’t have to boil water or sterilize bottles. This is the safest way to feed a baby. Since breast milk is always with mom travelling and shopping with baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.
- Research suggests that breastfeeding provides mothers some protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life.
- Any amount of breast milk is always good for babies, regardless of their age.
- Breastfeeding saves families hundreds of dollars.
- Human milk is produced and delivered without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste.
Adapted from Public Health Agency of Canada, 10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/dca-dea/stages-etapes/childhood-enfance_0-2/nutrition/reasons-raisons-eng.php
One of the main reasons women quit breastfeeding is the perception of not enough milk. Women need to breastfeed their child on demand to produce breast milk. Skipping feeds can decrease breast milk production. When women do not feel comfortable feeding in public it can lead to skipped feeds or supplementing their child with formula or solid foods. Mothers also can become isolated because of the worry about breastfeeding in public. We recognize that there are skills and knowledge involved in helping mothers to breastfeed, however evidence shows us that giving education alone without the supportive environment does not result in behaviour change. Knowledge without good support can make moms feel guilty. Although there needs to be support from family and health practitioners, this initiative focuses on community.
While this initiative has a strong emphasis on the breastfed child, the Baby Friendly Spaces Program will support all families to feed their child by whatever method they choose.