You may be asking yourself what pregnancy has to do with settlement. Well, imagine being pregnant: with all the changes in a woman’s life, the implications, excitement and planning, and all that she will have to learn. Now, imagine this woman as a newcomer within a country, who hasn’t had time to find herself a job and with no immediate family around.
Meet my friend Lavinia John Cignelli.
Lavinia had to wait for her immigration papers back home, in Brazil, away from her Canadian husband, Rocco, for almost three years. With the excitement of being together again, in Canada, after only two weeks, came the unplanned pregnancy, followed by those familiar questions about the entire pregnancy process, including the topic of breastfeeding. Where do you go for help?
“The library”, she answers.
Being a “cultureholic”, Lavinia started to read about it as much as she could after learning of her pregnancy. During one of her visits to the library, a flyer about the Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) in Peel Region caught her attention. Designated to promote and support breastfeeding around the world, the initiative was created by the World Health Organizations and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund. The main goal is to increase the number of mothers who continue to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. Feeding a baby only with breast milk is sufficient, in itself, to supply the newborn with all the nutrients he needs for a good start in life.
The initiative provides parents with support, care and information, so they feel confident about the practice of breastfeeding.
To become Baby-Friendly, the city has to support mothers to maintain exclusive breastfeeding up to six months by following strict requirements from WHO, such as: have a written breastfeeding policy; have trained staff to help breastfeeding mothers at the hospital and at home; provide a welcoming atmosphere for breastfeeding families; and promote collaboration between health care providers, breastfeeding support groups and local community.
Breastfeeding not only prevents constipation and protects against childhood diseases including allergies, asthma and tooth decay, it may also improve babies’ cognitive development, so your cutie will be smart as well as healthy.
For mothers, breastfeeding promotes more bonding between moms and babies, helps their uterus to return to its normal size after birth, protects against breast and ovarian cancer. Plus, it helps them shed that baby-fat faster. Lavinia and my neighbour Julia Taweel, are living proof of that. Julia gave birth only two months ago, and she is fit as can be. “Do you know how many calories I burn every time I breastfeed? Five hundred!” she says proudly.
“The family will also save money, a lot of money”, points out Joan Crookston, Healthy Families Manager with Toronto Public Health, “and we know that, in Toronto, there’s a lot of families who have problems with having access to food”. The Peel Region is a model BFI, having the highest birth rate among all the community health services in Canada. Toronto is working hard to get there.
In a study conducted with 1,500 first-time mothers who gave birth within Toronto, almost all of them started breastfeeding while at the hospital, and almost three-quarters continued some breastfeeding after six months, but only 63 percent embraced the exclusive breastfeeding (breast milk only, no other foods) after their discharge from the hospital.
The number drastically dropped to 17.5 percent after six-months. “We really want to help women breastfeed. Particularly for women who are new to Canada and perhaps don’t have the support”, says Joan.
Joan emphasizes that the help is not only available at the hospital. Specially trained nurses and volunteers walk new moms through the entire process of breastfeeding, from baby-led latching, how to tell if your baby is still hungry, to your own personal care, before and after the hospital.
“They go to your home to assist you if you need”, says Lavinia, who mastered the art of breastfeeding, having used the extra help only once. Julia, born in Canada, has her mom around, but also used her friend’s expertise in lactation once.
Now, how about breastfeeding in public? Julia stares at me, pausing. That’s more complicated, we both agree. This kind of thinking, restaurants and retail malls to give moms, like Julia, a safe and welcoming place to feed their little one, anytime, anywhere.
A Breastfeeding Friendly sticker shows that the establishment is part of the initiative. Enrolment is free of cost for the business owner and the decal is available in an array of languages.
With or without the sticker, the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies ensure a woman’s right to breastfeed undisturbed in public places. No need to fill your designer baby bag with bottles anymore.
For moms trying to be green, breastfeeding is environmentally friendly with zero waste. Convinced of its benefits yet?
• Toronto Health Connection 416-338-7600
• Telehealth 1-866-797-0000 (24/7)
Baby-Friendly Initiative at Peel Region
• Peel Public Health 905-799-7700
• La Leche International website and book www.lllc.ca