The Importance of Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is the natural food for newborns. It contains everything your baby needs. The Public Health Agency of Canada, the Dietitians of Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the College of Family Physicians agree:

  • Babies need ONLY breastmilk for the first 6 months.
  • At 6 months, babies need to eat solid foods and continue to breastfeed for up to 2 years of age and beyond. Start solids foods that are nutritious, especially foods that are high in iron.
  • Visit Family Nutrition for more information on starting your baby on solid foods.


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.


Why Breastfeed?

Today, most mothers decide to breastfeed their babies.

Breastfeeding matters because:

  • Everyone benefits from breastfeeding: You, your baby, your family and your community.
  • Breastmilk is convenient, always the right temperature and available anytime.
  • Breastfeeding is FREE and saves families money. Formula can cost $1500-2000+/year, and that is without paying for feeding equipment (bottles, nipples, caps).
  • Breastfeeding promotes bonding between you and your baby.
  • Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly.
  • Breastfeeding lowers health care costs for your family and society.

Benefits for babies:

  • Protects your baby from many infections and illnesses.
  • Promotes healthy brain development.
  • Builds healthy eating habits.
  • Promotes healthy tooth and jaw development.

Benefits for mothers:

  • Controls postpartum bleeding.
  • Helps you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy more quickly.
  • Slows down the return of your period.
  • Provides protection against breast and ovarian cancer.

Also see the section on the Risks of Not Breastfeeding below and the video on Why Breastfeed?


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers

You have the right to breastfeed anywhere, anytime. This right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No one should ask you to leave, cover up or move to a more private space if you are breastfeeding in public.

If you feel your breastfeeding rights are not being respected, you can report what happened to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by calling 1-866-598-0322, or by filing a complaint. Information about filing complaints and application forms are available at You can also talk to a Human Rights Advisor by calling 1-866-625-5179 or contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at for more information.

Groups such as La Leche League Canada or INFACT Canada may provide additional support.

A woman who is breastfeeding and returning to work has a right under the Ontario Human Rights Commission to be accommodated in the workplace so that she can continue to breastfeed her baby.

For more information, read the Ontario Human Rights Commission policy:

Policy on preventing discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

The Baby Friendly Initiative

You may have heard the term, Baby Friendly. The Baby Friendly Initiative or BFI, is an international program designed to support ALL mothers and babies by:

  • Supporting mothers to make an informed decision about feeding their babies
  • Protecting families from the marketing pressures of formula companies
  • Promoting practices that give mothers and babies a healthy start

The BFI consists of the BFI Integrated 10 Steps Practice Outcome Indicators for Hospitals and Community Health Services and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

There are hospitals, health units and community health centres that have received this designation or are working towards it. They apply high standards on how they support mothers and families.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit is committed to working towards becoming a Baby Friendly designated organization!

What does working towards becoming Baby Friendly mean?

  • We work to make sure breastfeeding is supported and welcomed everywhere. This includes at our main office, at off-site locations where Health Unit programs are running or services are being provided, as well as in your home and throughout the Grey Bruce community.
  • We are committed to supporting families to make an informed decision about infant feeding.
  • Support the decision you make about infant feeding.
  • Encourage breastfeeding because research shows that this is the healthiest way to feed your baby.
  • If you make an informed decision to feed your baby formula, our trained staff can provide you with information about how to safely and correctly prepare and store it.

At the Health Unit, we do not:

  • Give out samples of formula or advertise formula in any way.
  • Use words or pictures that promote formula feeding, bottles or pacifiers.
  • Our educational materials explain the importance of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding, to allow you to make an informed decision about how you will feed your baby.

Also see our Grey Bruce Health Unit Baby Friendly Organization policy.

For more information about the Baby Friendly Initiative visit:

Baby Friendly Initiative Ontario Website

Breastfeeding Committee for Canada Website


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Making an Informed Decision about Infant Feeding

From the minute you become pregnant and even before, you have been making decisions that affect your baby. Throughout your pregnancy and your baby’s life, you will be making many more decisions. They will not always be easy. To help you make informed decisions for you and your baby, you need good quality information. This website and the Breastfeeding Matters book will provide you with information about feeding your baby.

Most of the information regarding infant formula comes directly from formula companies. They are trying to encourage you to feed your baby formula. When women decide to formula feed, they will have to buy formula and feeding equipment until their baby is at least one year old. Many families are surprised at the cost over the long-term.

Formula companies often give mothers samples of formula “just in case” they might need it. The free formula may come at a time when you are feeling tired, still getting to know your baby and not yet confident about breastfeeding.

When mothers have samples of formula:

  • They are more likely to feed formula to their babies.
  • A mother’s milk supply does not get established if she feeds formula supplements to her baby. Milk supply is directly linked to how often you feed your baby.
  • Babies who receive formula supplements are more likely to feed less from the breast and need more formula.
  • Mothers and babies who use formula in the first few weeks of breastfeeding are more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier than planned.

If you are planning to breastfeed, learn about the Breastfeeding Help and Support in Grey and Bruce so you can get the support you need to feel confident breastfeeding your baby.

There are times when a baby needs extra milk. If this happens to your baby, it is best to give your own expressed breastmilk. For more information on expressing breastmilk, see that section of our website.

Babies, especially premature and very sick babies, can sometimes receive donor milk from a human milk bank. For more information about human milk banks in Canada, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America or The Rogers Nixon Ontario Human Milk Bank.  

There are times when it is necessary to give formula. Some reasons for giving formula are:

  • The baby has a medical condition and needs to be fed formula or given a special formula. View the information document from the World Health Organization on the subject.
  • The mother has a medical condition and is unable to breastfeed her baby. View the information document from the World Health Organization on the subject.
  • The mother and baby are separated from one another and the mother is unable to get enough breastmilk to her baby.


If you think you need to give your baby formula, get help right away. Breastfeeding Supports in Grey and Bruce provides information on resources available in your community.


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Risks of Not Breastfeeding

  • Infections such as ear, chest and bladder infections.
  • Upsets of the stomach and gut, causing diarrhea or later bowel problems.
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Obesity and chronic diseases later in life.
  • Some childhood cancers.

For mothers, NOT breastfeeding increases their risk of:

  • Postpartum bleeding.
  • Cancer of the breast or ovaries.


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Community Support

A community that does not support breastfeeding anywhere, anytime can greatly influence a woman’s decision to start or continue breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed a baby and has benefits for babies, mothers, families and communities, and needs to be supported.

Read or download the Grey Bruce Breastfeeding Friendly Business Toolkit, a guide on how businesses can make their establishments more welcoming to breastfeeding families and employees.

Grey Bruce Breastfeeding Friendly Business Toolkit.

Also see the section above on the Rights of Breastfeeding Mothers

Family Support

All new mothers benefit from the support of their families and communities.  Having this support can make breastfeeding a success!

Breastfeeding is natural and babies are born to breastfeed. During the early days after birth, some babies and mothers need time to learn breastfeeding and get it right. What other people say or believe may affect your breastfeeding experience. Your family and friends can help you give your baby the best start in life.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Tell your family and friends that you plan to breastfeed and ask them to support you.
  • Encourage them to become familiar with breastfeeding information, so they know how they can support you and what help is available is your community.
  • Allow them to take care of you, so you can take care of your baby.

Family and friends can help in the following ways:

  • Become informed. Get as much information about breastfeeding as you can before the baby is born. Talk to friends, relatives, other breastfeeding families and health professionals to learn what makes the breastfeeding experience successful. For Grandparents who want to support a daughter or loved one to breastfeed, please see A Grandparents Guide to Supporting Breastfeeding.
  • Know where support is available. Become familiar with the Breastfeeding Help and Support in Grey and Bruce and help the mother to access these supports.
  • Offer encouragement. A new mother may worry that she does not have enough milk for her baby. Most women have more than enough breastmilk. Tell her that breastfeeding is the best way to feed her baby. Tell her that you believe in her and that you are there to help.
  • Do not disturb. Limit visitors, telephone calls and other interruptions during the early weeks after the baby is born so that the mother and baby can get to know one another and learn how to breastfeed successfully.
  • Encourage rest. A new mother needs lots of energy to focus on the baby. Help with everyday needs such as meal preparation, dishes and laundry, keeping the home tidy and caring for the other children.
  • Help the mother care for the baby. Babies cry for many reasons, not just for hunger. Learn different ways of comforting baby such as skin-to-skin holding, walking, singing or dancing. Bathing and changing are other ways to learn about the baby. By comforting, bathing and changing the baby, you can give the mother more time to breastfeed and take care of herself as well.
  • Have realistic expectations. A new baby changes life forever. It is normal to have mixed feelings about these changes. Giving up breastfeeding will not end these feelings. Breastfeeding will help both the mother and baby.
  • Get help. If the mother feels that things are not going well with breastfeeding, encourage her to ask for help. See Breastfeeding Help and Support in Grey and Bruce.
  • Remember that each mother is different. Ask her what she feels would help her.

Watch this video for more information: Working as a Parenting Team


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.

Mother-to-Mother Support

Mothers and expectant mothers benefit from the support of other mothers who are breastfeeding. You may have friends or relatives who are breastfeeding their babies or who have recently breastfed. You can also meet and/or receive support from pregnant or breastfeeding mothers through:

  • Group Prenatal Classes:  Ask if your family health team or local hospital offers group prenatal classes. Midwives Grey Bruce partners with M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Resource Centre in Owen Sound to offer group prenatal education. If you live in or around Owen Sound, contact M’Wikwedong at 519-371-1147 or 1-866-202-2068 to see when the next prenatal classes are scheduled. Hanover Family Health Team offers a free prenatal program to the public, which includes a breastfeeding component. Call the Hanover Family Health Team reception at 519-506-4348 or 1-855-677-4348. Located at Hanover and District Hospital, 90 7th Ave on the 2nd floor.
  • La Leche League Canada Groups:  Helps mothers to breastfeed through support from other mothers and education. Grey Bruce has excellent active groups in our area and many local leaders are available over the phone, in the evenings and on weekends. Our local groups are best contacted by email. Groups are active in Owen Sound and Kincardine. Hanover LLL leaders are available for individual support, but there are no group meetings at this time. You can also visit La Leche League Canada at   or call 1-800-665-4324.
  • Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) Baby Groups. Find an OEYC near you!
  • Breastfeeding Buddy Program: Mothers helping other mothers. Moms and moms to be can be matched with an experienced breastfeeding peer support volunteer prenatally or after baby arrives, for up-to-date breastfeeding information, encouragement and texting, telephone, email or in-person support. Contact Mary Lynn Houston-Leask from M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Resource Centre at 519-377-4931.


Adapted with permission from the Best Start Resource Centre.


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