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Feeding Your Baby

We want to ensure that we provide you with information about infant feeding and that we respect the choices you make.
Why breastfeed?

BC Women's supports breastfeeding as the 'normal and unequalled' way to feed babies. As you already know breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. Numerous health authorities, including the World Health Organization, the Canadian Pediatric Society and Health Canada recommend that:

  • Babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months
  • You begin offering nutritious solid foods at 6 months of age
  • Breastfeeding continues for 2 years or longer

Info on the importance of breastfeeding

Preparing to breastfeed

We encourage you and your family to get as much information as you need and ensure that your questions and concerns are answered. Good Information and support will help you meet your goals. As a starting point:

  • Read booklets such as Baby's Best Chance and BC Women's pamphlet Breastfeeding Your Baby.
  • Ask your community health nurse, midwife or physician questions about breastfeeding.
  • Every mother and baby is different, so having difficulty breastfeeding once doesn't mean you can never do it.
  • Size and shape of your breasts and nipples doesn't affect your ability to make breast milk.
  • Attend a mother support group such as La Leche League 

Please feel free to ask your nurse, midwife, or doctor for more information.

After you go home, we provide an outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic for ongoing support for breastfeeding.   

Common concerns about breastfeeding

Skin to skin contactRight after birth, your baby is placed on your abdomen. Skin-to-skin contact with you or your partner helps your baby recover from birth. Babies left skin-to-skin for the first hour without interruption often find the breast on their own and feed well. We encourage families to let their baby finish the first breastfeeding before taking the baby away to weigh and and measure. Your nurse, midwife or physician will continue to monitor you and your baby in the first hours after birth. These brief checks can be done while your baby is skin to skin with you or your partner.

Learn more about feeding cues and behaviours under the next tab called Resources.

Nursing Mom and babyParents often stuggle with the baby’s frequent feeding, especially during the second night of life. Babies are often quite sleepy for the first 24 hours but begin to wake to feed and be comforted much more frequently. In fact, a baby becoming more and more interested in feeding is a good sign that they have recovered from birth. Frequent feeding helps prevent or minimize jaundice, excessive weight loss in the baby and engorgement for the mother.

If babies are not feeding well or are premature or ill, mothers may need to hand express and use a breast pump to establish their milk production and get more milk for their babies. Watch the video in the Resource tab which describes how to establish milk when your baby can’t ‘just breastfeed’. Ideally, start hand expressing within the first hour of birth if your baby cannot be with you. Continue to express and pump at least 8 times in 24 hours – as often as your baby would breastfeed if they could.

baby being spoon fedSometimes after breastfeeding, babies in the hospital may need additional milk for medical reasons such as low blood sugar levels. Some mothers may be able to express additional milk to give to their babies.

If the baby needs more than mother’s own milk for medical reasons, we can usually offer two choices:

  1. Pasteurized human donor milk. BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank provides milk generously donated by mothers with extra milk. The donor mothers are screened and the milk is pasteurized and tested to ensure a safe product. (link to milk bank site?)

  2. Human milk substitute (formula). Donor milk or formula can be given to the baby by spoon, cup, syringe or bottle. Your nurse will help you find what works best for you and your baby. Please feel free to ask your nurse, midwife and doctor for more information.

It is hard to watch your baby when they need to have a blood test or other painful procedure. The good news is that you can help your baby cope with pain. Research shows that cuddling your baby skin-to-skin and breastfeeding really helps your baby.

Related videos

Helping your baby manage pain

The Power of a Parent’s Touch

Some women choose not to breastfeed. If you have enough information to make an informed decision to formula-feed your baby, we want to support and help you to do so.

Info about formula use and preparation

Sometimes parents who have decided to bottle-feed their babies wonder if the Baby-Friendly Initiative applies to them. The answer is yes. Skin-to-skin care (STS) is important for all babies. STS care immediately after birth helps babies recover from their birth – they are warmer, less stressed and cry less. It helps their heart rate and breathing. Regardless of how you feed your baby, cuddle your baby STS to enjoy the amazing benefits.

Many mothers wonder if they can get pregnant while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an effective birth control only if all of the following apply to you:

• Your baby is less than 6 months old
• Your periods have not returned
• Your baby is exclusively breastfeeding - day and night
• Your baby is not taking a bottle, solid foods or regularly uses a soother.

This method of birth control in the first 6 months is called the Lactation Amenorrhea Method (LAM)

Info on birth control compatible with breastfeeding

‎Mothers can breastfeed their children wherever mothers are legally allowed to be. 

Learn about your breastfeeding rights in Canada.

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