As beneficial as breastfeeding is, new mothers need support to start and maintain healthy breastfeeding practices.
The Community Breastfeeding Collaborative of Guelph continues to offer support services to new moms and recently hosted its annual celebration to honour National Breastfeeding Week recently.
For Collaborative members, it was an opportunity to raise awareness and help spread the message about the importance of breastfeeding
“This is a celebration. The 'latch on' happens at noon and nationally, many people take part. It’s to raise awareness about breastfeeding and to help normalize it,” said Wendy Lahey, a Public Health nurse and member of the Community Breastfeeding Collaborative of Guelph.
The latch-on is a friendly competition to help set the record for the most parents feeding human milk to their children at one time.
“Many new moms start breastfeeding and initiation rates are high but it’s the extended duration and exclusivity rates that need to stay constant,” Lahey said.
It is recommended that babies are breastfed exclusively for the fist six months and then up to about two years with the introduction of solid foods according to Natalie Gohl, also a member of the Collaborative and a leader with La Leche League Canada.
The La Leche League offers one-on-one breastfeeding support, drop-in parent groups, monthly meetings and online and phone support.
The theme of this year's National Breasteeding Week was “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding."
A variety of members from the Collaborative were on hand to answer questions during the celebration.
The Community Breastfeeding Collaborative of Guelph is a local collaboration of public agencies, private businesses and parents who promote a supportive culture of breastfeeding in the community.
Members include: the Guelph Community Health Centre, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Guelph General Hospital, La Leche League Canada – Guelph, Guelph Family Health Team, Guelph Midwives, Family Midwifery Care of Guelph, Beginnings Family Services Guelph, The Association of Ontario Doulas, and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.
“We have breastfed and we have all trained to be leaders and volunteers,” Gohl said.
“Anyone can come to our groups for support. Our goal is to offer information to help families make decisions that are the best for them and their families.”
For Lindsay Pravato, a postpartum nurse and lactation consultant, the event is an opportunity to get together with the community and other supportive partners.
“This is a community outreach event,” Pravato said.
And Pravato also says it is also an opportunity to share in the many health benefits breastfeeding has to offer, for both mother and baby.
Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies. It has the right amount of nutrients, is easily digested and readily available.
“The immunity protection is huge,” Pravato says. “Breast milk primes the microbiome, “the gut” ant this is something you cannot not mimic. You can only get this from breast milk.”
Other benefits include, reduced allergies, reduced rates in diabetes and studies also show that later in life, women who were breastfed have lower rates of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
“Overall, there is less chance of infection especially respiratory, ear and gastro infections, reduced rate in childhood cancers as well as asthma,” Lahey said.
Breast milk is loaded with antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria.
For mother, breastfeeding helps the uterus contract, helps with weight loss after birth, aids in lowering the risk of depression and can also reduce risk of disease.
Breastfeeding for more than one year is linked to a 28 per cent lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It has also been linked to a reduced risk of several other diseases including heart disease.
Public Health offers free breastfeeding clinics Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Ontario Early Years Centre from 1 pm until 3:30 pm.at Stone Road Mall.
The La Leche League also offers two meetings a month at the Guelph Public Library.
Collaborative member Andrea Munk was also on hand to offer advice at the celebration.
Munk, a bra fitting specialist, developed her own company, Cedar Lily Bra Boutique.
She designs, makes and fits bras for all ages and to suit all needs including regular, nursing and mastectomy bras.
“Just ask someone for help,” Munk says.
“When it comes to breastfeeding, there can be many challenges but there are so many people who can help.”