Jennifer Jacob, Nutritionist
January 16, 2020
Breastfeeding in Windsor-Essex
The World Health Organization and Health Canada recommend exclusive breastfeeding for an infant’s first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond (WHO, 2019). Promotion and support of breastfeeding is an important part of healthy growth and development, providing unique benefits for both the infant and mother. Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include a decrease in risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); reduced risk of many childhood illnesses; healthy brain growth and development; and also contributes to a lower risk of chronic diseases for both the infant and mother in later ages.
Despite the benefits of breastfeeding and recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months, rates remain consistently low in Windsor-Essex County (WEC) with just 16.3% of women reporting exclusive breastfeeding at six months post-partum (BORN, 2018). Exclusive breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge have remained low over the past years. In 2017, 57.4% of women were exclusively breastfeeding at hospital discharge, significantly lower than the provincial average at 61.2%; in 2018, this rate declined a further 5%. At two months post-partum rates of exclusive breastfeeding in WEC drops to 25.7% (BORN, 2018).
In 2018, the WECHU received its Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) designation. As part of maintaining this designation and requirements in the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS), ongoing monitoring of local breastfeeding rates has been established using BORN and our internally administered infant feeding survey. Additionally, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) in 2019, committed to reviewing all breastfeeding services provided by the Healthy Families department to ensure programs and services best met the needs of the community. This included an Environmental Scan, in partnership with the Windsor Essex-County Children and Youth Planning Committee, and a Literature Review. Based on the results from our findings, the following initiatives were identified to address the decline in exclusive breastfeeding rates and improve supports for expecting mothers and new parents.
Collaborating with local hospitals to improve breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge: In 2020, the health unit and Windsor Regional Hospital will offer monthly prenatal breastfeeding classes to prepare women to navigate common breastfeeding challenges within the first 24 hours and beyond. Additionally, the Health Unit will also offer Family Birthing Centre nursing staff with breastfeeding training to improve their ability to assist mothers with breastfeeding initiation and help to build mothers’ breastfeeding self-efficacy, a key predictor of breastfeeding duration (RNAO, 2018).
Policy and Supportive environments: Using the RNAO Breastfeeding Practice Guidelines (2018), the health unit will provide recommendations to Family Birthing Centres to create or improve policies, protocols and procedures to better support a women’s intention to breastfeed.
Improving access to in-person lactation consultation: In 2020, the health unit Lactation Consultant’s (LC) in addition to providing in-house clinic support will also provide home visits for women who have significant barriers to accessing services at the health unit offices. Such barriers may include, mothers who are geographically isolated, have multiple children, and or suffer from a physical ailment or mental health concern. Furthermore, WECHU has added a third LC position to help promote and support exclusivity rates for our breastfeeding families.
Increasing awareness about breastfeeding services in Windsor-Essex County: In 2020, a targeted awareness campaign will be launched to improve awareness about our services among priority populations. In addition to targeted bus and social media ads, the health unit will send promotional material to doctors’ offices and community groups in priority neighbourhoods. Evaluation will be incorporated into existing services to ensure priority groups are accessing these services.
The following individuals were consulted in the development this report: Felicia Lawal, Manager, Healthy Families, Amanda Ryall, Manager, Healthy Families, Nicole Dupuis, Director of Health Promotion.
Theresa Marentette, CEO
Newhook, Newhook, Midodzi et al. (2017). Poverty and Breastfeeding: Comparing Determinants of Early Breastfeeding Cessation Incidence in Socioeconomically Marginalized and Privileged Populations in the FINal Study. Health Equity, 1(1).
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)(2018). Breastfeeding - Promoting and Supporting the Initiation, Exclusivity, and Continuation of Breastfeeding for Newborns, Infants, and Young Children. 3rd Edition. Toronto, ON.