Statistics Canada conducted a study that found that the proportion of eligible mothers who breastfed exclusively for at least six months — the duration recommended by the World Health Organization and Health Canada — increased to 28 per cent from 20 per cent.
However, Donna Churko, a public health nurse with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, said the number of breastfeeding moms reaching that optimum target of six months is still too low.
The Statistics Canada study examined the impact the Jan. 1, 2001 extension in maternity leave from six months to a year had on time away from work, breastfeeding and the health of mothers and their babies.
More mothers stayed home longer and they breastfed their infants exclusively for the recommended six months or longer, according to the study. Breastfeeding was prolonged by an average of one month.
Churko, who works with the health region’s breastfeeding support centre, said the majority of new moms initiate breastfeeding but for whatever reason stop before the baby is six months old.
“Getting new moms to breastfeed for six months is our goal. But we are not there yet. We still have lots of work to do,” Churko said.
“We don’t have firm numbers to show specifically what our rates are but they are not as high as we would like to see them.”
There are a number of breastfeeding committees locally and provincially that are working to educate new moms on the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage and support their efforts, she said.
“We know that many moms stop breastfeeding earlier than we would like, although a number do continue throughout the first year of their baby’s life. So we like to help the moms overcome any barriers and encourage them to continue breastfeeding once they have started,” Churko said.
The Statistics Canada study concluded that extending maternity leave entitlements had led to mothers breastfeeding longer, but did not appear to have influenced the decision to initiate breastfeeding.
“I think people are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding but sometimes they just need a little help and support,” she said.
“It is a learning process. For some people breastfeeding comes quite naturally and with others sometimes it just needs a little bit of work on mom’s part and the baby’s part to be successful.”
It was found in 2005 that most new mothers in Canada try to breastfeed their baby, but only one in six actually sticks to it for as long as doctors recommend.
Once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding is much easier than bottle feeding. There is no cost involved and it is always available for you whenever you need it…