Nova Scotia has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Canada. An estimated 70% of women breastfeed when they leave the hospital, but only 12.4% of Nova Scotian women reach the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding until six months. There are many reasons why mothers may stop breastfeeding, but many report lack of support from family, friends and even healthcare providers. Thankfully, groups such as the Breastfeeding Community of Practice, Public Health and the IWK are working together to support women in their choice to breastfeed and help them achieve their goals.
My father was an OBGYN in New Brunswick and worked for close to 30 years delivering babies in our small town. He was one of a handful of doctors to provide obstetric and prenatal care, and often cared for families long beyond their child bearing years. One of his patients, a former teacher of mine recently wrote to me to share this story:
Dear Jennifer; when I see you post things related to breast feeding and health of children, I always think of your wonderful father. I can still hear him say well done my lady when he realized I was still breast feeding while teaching full time. All three of my children only had breast milk. I pumped before work, at noon, and night time. Your dad helped me raise three healthy, happy babies who are now amazing young adults. Take care and keep spreading the positive messages. When I wanted to breast feed my first child only your dad, my mother, and my husband supported me. The nurses were very discouraging. I am glad times have changed.
While this was a lovely story to hear about my Dad (who passed away in 2006) it really highlighted the importance of encouragement and a recognition that it can be difficult to persist in a culture that isn’t always supportive of our choices. It also illustrates how important it is for primary care providers to encourage mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding if we are to improve this province’s statistics.
But, how do we do that? We educate, educate and educate some more. Research tells us that while many GP’s have a positive attitude towards breastfeeding, they may need more information to improve their knowledge of how to breastfeed successfully (1). A recent study of Canadian physicians found that less than half (49.6% of paediatricians and 45.4% of family physicians) believed that evaluating breastfeeding was a primary care physician’s responsibility, which means that many women probably aren’t receiving adequate support (2).
So, keep going Mamas! You are doing a great job. And if you need help, consult the Breastfeeding COP’s “Helping Tree” for help.
We want to see you succeed!1. Brodribb, W et al. J Hum Lact 2008 Nov;24(4):422-30 2. Pound, CM et al. J Hum Lact 2014 Jun 11;30(3):298-309