Mothers not breastfeeding long enough: survey

April 14, 2009

TRURO – Roxanne Beavers of Lower Onslow said she’d like to nurse her seven-month-old son for at least a year.
Medically, she’s golden. But statistically, she’s going against the grain.
Many moms are choosing to stop nursing their babies sooner than they perhaps should, despite increasing breastfeeding rates for 20 years.
A recent survey by Maternity Experiences Study Group, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada, showed 90 per cent of women planned to breastfeed their babies longer than six months – but only 14 per cent of those women actually did so.
“A lot will depend on work, and a lot will depend on him,” Beavers said, referring to her son Oliver.
Many women have to stop breastfeeding earlier than planned for health reasons, too.
“Usually it’s a physical as opposed to an emotional choice,” Beavers said.
Communities – and hospitals in particular – need to be more supportive of breastfeeding, Beavers said. A ‘nurse-in’ was staged in February at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax after a woman was told to “cover up” while breastfeeding her baby.
Beavers said she tries to cover up in public while nursing but wishes she didn’t have to worry about not exposing anything.
“But what does it matter? It’s food – the original fast food.”
Workplaces, too, need to be more supportive of breastfeeding and allow mothers to pump milk at work.
“Pumping will keep your supply up,” said Beavers, 32. “If you’re only nursing a few times a day, I think it’s harder to keep going.”
Janet MacNeil, mother to eight-month-old Georgia, said the statistics of women breastfeeding long-term are discouraging but she understands why some women can’t do it.
“Some people have to go back to work or they just feel the baby is ready to move on,” said MacNeil, 35.
The Onslow Mountain resident said starting out nursing can be daunting. “If you make it to six weeks, you’re doing good.”
Kathie Sutherland, a parent educator and co-ordinator at Maggie’s Place in Truro, suggests more support groups and more information for new mothers are the keys to improving duration rates.
“The goal is that every baby be breastfed, exclusively for six months, and continue breastfeeding for two years, as the World Health Organization recommends,” said Sutherland.
She cites negative connotations and myths about breastfeeding as some possible reasons why women choose not to breastfeed long-term.
“In North America and western cultures, that’s not the norm,” she said. “There’s still lots to be done to inform people and to advocate for babies and mothers.”
The health benefits of long-term breastfeeding can do wonders for a baby, Sutherland added.
“The longer babies are breastfed, the stronger those benefits are and the longer they last.”
But the health benefits of breastfeeding don’t only benefit baby – but mom, too.
“Many people think of breastfeeding as being hard on a woman’s body but while you’re breastfeeding, you absorb calcium and other nutrients very efficiently,” Sutherland commented. “Most women don’t know about these things.”
Unfortunately, Sutherland said, the longer you breastfeed your baby, the less community support you’ll probably get.
“The challenges of breastfeeding change as the baby gets older.”
Maggie’s Place is a support centre for families with young children and babies. The next breastfeeding support group at Maggie’s Place is scheduled for Monday, May 4 at 10-11:30 a.m. For more information on breastfeeding, visit the La Leche League of Canada’s website at http://www.lllc.ca.

(This was published in the April 13, 2009 edition of the Truro Daily News.)

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One Response to “Mothers not breastfeeding long enough: survey”

  1. nancy said

    When it is quite evident that breastfeeding is the most important part in a baby’s nutrition, then why should the mothers stop feeding their babies…? I have even heard moms breastfeeding babies till the 3rd year.

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