Wednesday, 20 October 2010

New Mothers Need Support to Breast Feed: Supplemental Home Visits, Not Supplemental Formula Feedings

The health advantages of human breast milk babies is well established, and most health systems are currently officially encouraging it. At the moment Héma-Québec, the provincial blood bank agency, is studying the possibility of creating a certified breast milk bank to help out when mothers have problem nursing. There are similar banks elsewhere in the world, and one already operational in British Columbia, it seems.

At practically the same time, Le Devoir launched a debate about the support for breast feeding that is given in the Québec health system. Nursing babies is strongly encouraged, but publicity campaigns are one thing, and successful breast feeding is another. Mothers and babies are sent home here after 48 hours under normal circumstances, which is before the milk really comes in. After that, there will be a visit from a public health nurse sometime in the first couple of weeks, but in those tempestuous first days, all too many mothers are left to their own devices. Faced with a baby who wants to nurse every couple of hours and breasts that are sore from the little mouth which may not be very efficient at sucking, who can blame a woman who says it's not worth it?

If we're serious about encouraging nursing it would a lot of sense to set up a system where there is a visit within a day of release from the hospital by a health professional who understands what nursing is all about, and is ready to give support and advice when it is really needed.

The milk bank feasibility study will cost $66,000, The Gazette reported. It probably will be money well spent, but I think a bigger effort in supporting mothers from the beginning deserves a far higher priority.

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