Many people say that breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world. It is true that it is the most nutritional option for the baby, but it does not always come naturally to everyone. When you look at the benefits of human milk, breastfeeding can be one of the most important decisions that you make for your child. First time moms are often overly concerned about this, and even mothers who breastfed their first child effortlessly can have challenges subsequent times. It turns out that it is often the baby who has issues not related to the mom’s milk production or breasts. Therefore, it is so important for mothers to get the information and support they need to successfully breastfeed.
It’s normal to feel a bit nervous when you start breastfeeding for the first time. This is especially true since everyone, from friends to health care professionals, seems to have an opinion about nursing. So, where can new moms turn for unbiased support? The good news is that there are several groups and organizations that have been set up to do exactly this. In addition to our own Medela Canada Facebook page, here are places where mothers can get breastfeeding support in Canada.
Lactation Consultants Offer Breastfeeding Support with a Human Touch
When you leave the hospital, it’s easy to feel like you are on your own. If you are breastfeeding for the first time, you probably have questions that go beyond the basics, and this is where a Lactation Consultant can help. If you have challenges breastfeeding, it’s important to get help from a trained expert as soon as possible. Try not to wait days or weeks before reaching out for help. While all doctors, nurses and midwives will be able to give you some help, it is usually best to try and find a healthcare professional that is specifically trained in breastfeeding, like a Lactation Consultant, certified by the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), or a doctor, nurse, dietician or midwife who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (ICBLC).
Lactation Consultants are part of a worldwide volunteer organization and are extremely skilled in providing breastfeeding support. They understand the experiences a new mom might be going through, and they can help with all kinds of practical breastfeeding issues. For example, they might provide advice regarding how to find the right breastfeeding positions or how to get your baby to latch properly. They can also help you to build your breastfeeding confidence and keep your experience in perspective. Most importantly, Lactation Consultants add a friendly human touch and offer a reality check to balance all of the well-intentioned, but, sometimes contradictory, advice that we receive from family and friends.
Hospitals that have a maternity department/ward can usually help you to find a Lactation Consultant, as can your local public health office. Simply call your hospital and ask for the Breastfeeding Clinic. If you’ve taken a prenatal class, ask your instructor to provide you a list of Lactation Consultants in your local area. Better to have the information before hand and not need it than to be rushing to find someone when you do need help. Or, you can visit ilca.org to find an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in your area. If you aren’t sure, you can always call Medela Canada and we can try to find one for you in your local area.
La Leche League Promotes Breastfeeding Awareness and Supports Mothers
La Leche League is an international non-profit organization, founded in 1956, with representation in sixty-eight countries around the world. It has an active presence in Canada, promoting breastfeeding awareness and discussing the advantages of breastfeeding at a community level. They also distribute information and provide support to mothers on their excellent website. In addition, La Leche League supports a network of trained volunteers, who provide mother-to-mother breastfeeding support.
La Leche also helps mothers to connect with one of the 200 community groups that they organize. These groups hold monthly meetings, where leaders organize informal chats and encourage moms to discuss their breastfeeding experiences and challenges. These group events are a great way for first time moms to make new friends and learn from women who are already experienced with regards to breastfeeding.
You don’t even need to visit a meeting in-person to benefit from La Leche League’s services. Their leaders offer telephone support to pregnant and nursing women and their website also has a number of excellent online resources. La Leche’s community driven approach and passionate support for breastfeeding make them an excellent source of breastfeeding support for Canadian women.
While alternatives are emerging when a mother is looking for a supportive and relaxed environment during the birthing process, over 97% of all births in Canada take place in large hospitals that are very well equipped and can offer great support to a mom if she asks. In fact, these maternity hospitals all over Canada give moms and babies a good start in life and help mom to build confidence on her breastfeeding journey. In addition to well-trained physicians, the large maternity hospitals are generally best suited to handling anything unexpected during the birthing process. This allows them to have many resources to support new moms, including breastfeeding clinics.
Many hospitals in Canada are now offering these kinds of services. For example, British Colombia’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, in Vancouver, is one of Canada’s busiest maternity hospitals, delivering more than 7,000 babies a year. They go a step further with a family centred program that offers clinical support and information for families as out-patients. For British Colombia’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital, breastfeeding support does not end when you leave the hospital, as they offer access to their own, specially educated, nurse Lactation Consultants to help new mothers to achieve breastfeeding success. They also have a number of valuable online resources.
Provincial Online and Phone Support for Breastfeeding Moms
In Canada, each province has its own programs to support breastfeeding mothers. Here is a list of support organizations across Canada.
Alberta has the Alberta Breastfeeding Association which offers educational materials, resources and videos for breastfeeding moms along with a list of communities in Alberta that provide a baby friendly environment. Another good resource is Alberta Health Services which has information about baby vaccines, safety, everyday care, parenting, growth and development, and common health concerns. Their toll free number is 1-866-408-5465.
British Columbia’s Perinatal Services Group, offers breastfeeding awareness and support along with workshops, presentations and other events. For specific breastfeeding support in British Colombia, check out www.healthlinkbc.ca.
Manitoba’s Health Links is available for moms who are having difficulties with breastfeeding, or who are tired or having emotional difficulties. Their line is Toll Free at 1-888-315-9257. The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority also has breastfeeding clinics where mothers can access help with feeding. Another resource is Healthy Child Manitoba which offers Healthy Baby Community Support Programs for women and new parents. Healthy Baby group sessions offer social support and informal learning opportunities to promote healthy infant development.
New Brunswick is a supporter of the Baby Friendly Initiative and on its website offers a range of informative videos, resources and links for breastfeeding support. They also do a great series of educational and inspirational videos about parenting and breastfeeding on their YouTube Channel. A new provincial program called the New Brunswick Perinatal Health Program has also just been launched, aiming to improve care for expectant mothers and babies.
Newfoundland and Labrador has a Perinatal Program offering a follow-up clinic to infants and guidelines and resources for raising a healthybaby.They also have produced a very entertaining and informative video on the pros and cons of breastfeeding.
Nova Scotia supports breastfeeding women through the Nova Scotia Provincial Breastfeeding Policy. It also supports the Canadian Paediatric Society promotion of the Baby-Friendly Initiative which is aimed at protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
Ontario has just started a new online phone support initiative, called Tele Health. This service is sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Health and provides access to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A health professional will talk through your breastfeeding concerns and help you decide what to do next. The number is 1-866-797-0000, and both English and French are supported. Other support groups in Ontario include:
- Community Care Access Centres
- Ontario Ministry of Health
- Ontario Lactation Consultants Organization of Canada
Prince Edward Island is in the process of forming its own breastfeeding support organization, and the PEI Breastfeeding Coalition is working on various initiatives to help breastfeeding moms. The number to call for information is 1-709-753-2396.
Quebec has many localized support programs offered through CLSC. Another good resource in Quebec is the Quebec Portal where they have a parent page full of practical help with an overview of government programs and services in Quebec for future and new parents. This includes information on everything from parental leave to child development.
Saskatchewan has the Breastfeeding Committee which is a network of health professionals that represent many different organizational groups and consumers. They provide factsheets, resources and links for breastfeeding moms.
With all of the amazing resources that are available to women in Canada, it has never been easier to get breastfeeding support. Today’s moms want to know more than breastfeeding basics and want to receive personalized support. A useful resource to mention is Medela’s mobile app called MedelaMe, which gives helpful personalized breastfeeding information about your baby’s sleeping and feeding routines. Mothers like you want answers to specific questions and want to be a part of supportive communities of like-minded women. With minor issues out of the way, you can focus on the fun of being a mom, and enjoy your beautiful new child with your partner, family and friends.
Did you want support with your breastfeeding experience? Where did you go and what helped you and your baby the most? Please comment below so that other new moms can learn from your experience or join the conversation on our Medela Canada Facebook page.