Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Breastfeeding Support

on March 30, 2015


The National Post published an article  that described a study about how the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines around breastfeeding, and the way the medical community communicates those guidelines, influences the breastfeeding decisions of mothers.  The guidelines, which are endorsed by Canadian, American and British health authorities, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months with the addition of complementary foods as the baby is ready and interested.  Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as the baby receiving only breastmilk (no water, juice, artificial formulas or solid foods).

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What did the study find?  Many of the mothers interviewed felt that the guideline was unrealistic and unachievable.  Most of them gave their babies something other than breastmilk within the first few weeks and the majority stopped breastfeeding before their baby reached six months.  These mothers said they felt unsupported in their goal of exclusive breastfeeding both within their families and by the health care community.  They wished there had been more realistic teaching about breastfeeding prenatally and better access to support after their babies were born.

While the study was done in Scotland, La Leache League Canada Leaders hear these comments, too.  Mothers are told about the importance of breastfeeding during their pregnancies, they want to do what is best for their babies, but if they run into difficulties, they often have a hard time finding support or helpful information.

We don’t believe that the problem is having six months of exclusive breastfeeding as a goal; the problem is not providing mothers with the knowledge, tools and support to make it a realistic goal.  That’s exactly why La Leche League was founded more than 50 years ago, and why it is still needed today.  Peer support (support from experienced breastfeeding mothers) has been shown by research to be the most effective way to give mothers the emotional and practical support they need, especially in the first 2-3 weeks. The WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly™ Initiative (BFI) program recognizes the importance of this kind of support for continued breastfeeding.  It’s been made the “10th step” of becoming “baby-friendly” – the Canadian version states, in part, “Provide a seamless transition between the services provided by the hospital, community health services and peer support programs.”  That requires more than just handing out a piece of paper listing resources.



La Leche League provides support in several different ways.  At the monthly meetings, women can meet other mothers with babies, and talk about their challenges in an informal setting.  The topics discussed range from dealing with sore nipples, managing breastfeeding when the mother has to return to work, and handling the changes in family relationships when a new (breastfeeding) baby joins the family.  Many of the mothers interviewed for the study found that other family members wanted to feed the babies; this is a common concern at LLL meetings, too, and the mothers in the group usually have a variety of helpful solutions.

We are pleased to see researchers listening to and sharing the problems new mothers are facing “in the real world.”  We hope this study leads to improvements in how information and support for breastfeeding mothers is given within the healthcare system including a system-wide commitment to referring mothers to peer support groups such as La Leche League.


If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally


If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at so we can continue to help others breastfeed.






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