Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Supporting Teen Mothers

on March 28, 2016

Teen mothers are somewhat less likely to decide to breastfeed than women over 20 and can encounter some additional challenges. La Leche League Canada breastfeeding groups for young mothers can provide appropriate support for those young women who choose to breastfeed.
In 2009, a group of La Leche League Canada volunteers in Calgary responded to a need in their community and started LLLC meetings especially for young mothers. “We started this group because we felt there was a need to help teen mothers in their own environment. Teen mothers often have different issues than other mothers”. The Calgary teen group met at a Calgary organization that provides housing and support to teen mothers while they are pregnant and after the birth of the baby for up to a year. Most young women who live there attend school, are working, or seeking employment. The LLLC volunteers visit the school day care centre twice a month at lunchtime and are available to answer questions. The volunteers find that the informal atmosphere helps the mothers to feel more comfortable. Usually about ten mothers attend the sessions. The babies range in age from newborn to about nine months.  The topics discussed follow the La Leche League Canada series meeting topics but are specifically tailored to respond to issues and questions raised by the young mothers. Volunteers also share LLLC Information sheets and website resources with participants. The location and informal nature of the meetings has helped to make LLLC’s mother-to-mother support accessible and relevant to the needs of the young women who attend high school. The program is making a difference in the lives of these young mothers and their babies.

Fiona, a LLLC Leader in Edmonton Alberta, agrees. She has been coordinating a noon-hour breastfeeding drop-in for young mothers since 2002. Teen mothers often have a hard time admitting when they are struggling with breastfeeding or parenting issues. They are oriented to their peers and therefore much of their information about breastfeeding and babies can come from people who are equally ill-informed. One of the interesting side effects of holding these group meetings in a common room, is that girls who do not plan to attend the meeting are in the room and find themselves drawn into the discussion. Often they will speak about how their experience of breastfeeding did not go well, leading to discussion about how to prevent and overcome problems and where to find support and information for breastfeeding. Their experiences can encourage the expectant mothers to do some forward planning to improve their chances of successfully meeting their own breastfeeding goals. Girls who have struggled with breastfeeding and given up, gain some knowledge about the circumstances that created the challenges, the information that could have helped turn things around, and the support systems that could have helped them through the challenging times. They come to realize that their bodies did not fail them and they become better-informed peer supporters for the other teen mothers around them.
The issues that young mothers deal with are often different from those of adult mothers. For example, they are required to be back at school two weeks after giving birth. For many of them, this requires over an hour on the bus with at least one change. Some have no qualms about breastfeeding in public but for most in those early weeks, it is hard to handle any additional strange looks beyond what they are already getting as a teen with a baby in tow. Helping them figure out how to manage the trips can make the difference between continuing to breastfeed while at school and at home or giving up completely.
Alcohol use, smoking, street drugs and birth control are other issues that come up far more often in the teen group. Fiona finds that reading straight from the Breastfeeding Answer Book provides the information they seek without any hint of judgment creeping in. She has noticed that the girls are often far more openly judgmental of each other’s choices in these areas than adults would be but the perception of adult judgment will shut down communication very quickly.
“Working with young mothers is a privilege. They are as determined, passionate, funny, self-absorbed and energetic as any other teens.” Fiona concludes. “They are also caring concerned mothers who want the best for their children just as adult mothers do.”

Adapted from the LLLC Tree of Life Summer 2010

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. Thank you!


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