Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence

  Breastfeeding: Understanding the Motivations and Supports for Women in Saskatoon and Winnipeg


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The research and publication of this study were funded by the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence (PWHCE). The PWHCE is financially supported by the Women's Health Contribution Program, Bureau of Women's Health and Gender Analysis, Health Canada. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the PWHCE or the official policy of Health Canada.

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R. Stout & Y. Hanson

Executive Summary

Over the course of 2011-2012, eighteen mothers and five service providers from Winnipeg and Saskatoon were asked a series of questions to understand the motivations, challenges and supports for breastfeeding.

Framed within a healthy living perspective, which considers ways to improve long-term health and reduce non-communicable diseases through eating well and staying active, the following questions were the driving force behind these discussions:

  1. What are mothers’ understanding of the overall and long-term benefits of breastfeeding including preventing obesity, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses? How does this understanding affect their decisions to initiate and continue breastfeeding exclusively?
  2. What knowledge and information about breastfeeding do mothers receive from their cultural communities and from family?
  3. What are the role of programs and policies in women’s decision to breastfeed? How can messages and strategies be improved to encourage exclusive breastfeeding?
The project led to uncovering some of the complexities experienced by breastfeeding mothers including their cultural knowledge and understandings, social environments, local program availability, health professional and family supports, or lack thereof, and suggestions for improving necessary supports.

The following suggestions were generated by the women and service providers on how to better support mothers who are breastfeeding.

Educational Opportunities
  • Develop parental and breastfeeding curriculum for K-12 students
  • Greater integration of breastfeeding education for health care providers
  • Develop prenatal courses specific to fathers/partners and grandparents.
Communication Opportunities
  • Provide consistent and positive messaging on breastfeeding
  • Utilize all means of communications, including print, web-based and social media to disseminate information and resources on breastfeeding
  • Counter guilt and judgement on women’s choice in breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  • Offset the lopsided messaging of formula companies with positive messaging for breast milk
Health Provision Opportunities
  • Break down the continued barriers to women’s access to health professionals, services, programs and supports for breastfeeding
  • Keep the dialogue going for the development of standardized milk banks
  • Seek out ways to ensure the continuity of care for mothers pre and post-natally
  • Provide around the clock, personal lactation assistance to mothers
  • Encourage cultural competency and care amongst health care providers

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