Mothers Pull Plug on Breastfeeding at 6 Months


Only 14 per cent of Canadian women were feeding their newborns only breast milk six months after birth, despite recommendations from the Canadian Paediatric Society, suggest the results of a survey released this week.

The Maternity Experiences Study Group, along with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada, surveyed more than 6,000 women aged 15 years and older to gauge their opinions on how they experience pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as the early months of motherhood.

Dr. Beverley Chalmers, co-chair of the maternity group, called it a "recipe for disaster" if mothers aren't exclusively breastfeeding their children -- meaning not supplementing feeding with other liquids and foods -- for six months. Babies who are breastfed for six months will have fewer illnesses than those who are given other foods or fluids, she said.

"Breastfeeding decreases the chances of your baby developing symptoms of diarrhea, as well as allergies and asthma, by 45 per cent," Chalmers said.

Results of the survey suggest 90 per cent of women planned to breastfeed their children. But three months later, only 52 per cent of them were still breastfeeding exclusively. By the six-month mark, only 14 per cent were doing so.

Hospital officials need to closely monitor how well women understand the importance of breastfeeding, according to Chalmers.

While some Canadian hospitals are recognized as "baby-friendly" and use the 10-step process to successful breastfeeding, developed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, others are not giving new mothers appropriate advice, said Chalmers.

The Maternity Experiences Survey was the first national survey devoted to the topic in Canada. It included mothers who had given birth five to 14 months before they were interviewed.