Organizers want to up local breastfeeding rates

Cranbrook is joining communities across the country to promote the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers and communities.

  • Sep. 26, 2013 2:00 p.m.

The first week in October is designated National Breastfeeding Week, and Cranbrook is joining communities across the country to promote the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, mothers and communities.

Several public events are scheduled to mark the occasion, including the annual Breastfeeding Challenge, set Saturday, Oct. 5, at the farmers’ market.

“We’re trying to promote the benefits of breastfeeding not just for moms and babies, but for the community,” said Public Health Nurse Pam Smith, who is organizing the event along with Daleen Bybee, a lactation consultant in private practice.

“The hope is that Cranbrook would be a really friendly breastfeeding place,” Smith said. “When people get behind it, moms feel supported and encouraged to do it.”

Many mothers don’t breastfeed for as long as they would like to because they may experience  breastfeeding difficulties, negative attitudes, lack of support or information.  Smith said active support is needed from families, friends, health care providers, and communities for mothers to sustain breastfeeding to one year and beyond.

Smith said most families in Cranbrook, like in the rest of Canada, choose to breastfeed. “Unfortunately by six months, most mothers have stopped breastfeeding.”

She said women and their infants don’t reap all of the long-term health benefits of extended breastfeeding.

Some of these benefits for the baby include decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, dental problems, Crohn’s disease, ear infections for infants less than 12 months, and gastroenteritis.

Some of the benefits for moms include  decreased risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer,  and ovarian cancer.

Benefits for the family include the fact that the cost of breastfeeding per month is free, whereas the monthly cost of formula can be hundreds of dollars.

The World Health Organization and Health Canada have a  goal for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months with the introduction of iron rich table foods at that time. In Cranbrook, approximately 27 per cent of mothers continue to breastfeed after six months.

Smith and Bylee hope to see these rates increase.

“Breastfeeding is beautiful and normal,” Bylee said. “It isn’t always perceived as such. By hosting events during breastfeeding week we strive to support breastfeeding moms, inform pregnant moms and promote breastfeeding to the general public.

The Breastfeeding Challenge is a worldwide event that occurs in the fall when Canada celebrates World Breastfeeding Week. The goal is to count every child breastfeeding at 11 a.m. local time at every site registered. The Challenge is a public event, and as a result has encouraged community discussion about issues related to breastfeeding. It has provided a focus for health promotion, the importance of breastfeeding, and the key role breastfeeding plays in the health of a community.  This will take place on October 5 at the farmers’ market at 10:45 a.m. with official latch on at 11 a.m.

“Last year we had 16 moms and 17 babies at the challenge,” Bybee said. “We are really hoping for at least double that this year. We are planning for 50.”

Other events set for Saturday include door prizes, goodie bags for breastfeeding moms and an educational baby-wearing fashion show, “plus a few more surprises,” Bybee said. Local sponsors include Interior Health, Over The Rainbow Family Services, Bumble Tree, Stephanie Moore Photography, Petra Naturally and Scentsy (Deanna Byman).

Organizers have also sent out a breastfeeding logo for local businesses to place in their window, informing the public that that business is a breastfeeding friendly place.