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Breastfeeding: Benefits and support for new parents

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Breastfeeding is a personal choice – not all parents will choose or be able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. For those who are struggling or need additional support, Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network (PCN) can help.

The benefits of breastfeeding

Alberta Health Services says breast milk can provide babies with vitamins and minerals for optimal growth and development. It also has the needed proteins, fats and other substances for growth. When possible, experts recommend breastfeeding your baby during the first six months of life and advise parents continue to breastfeed for up to two years or more.

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, Dr. Brian Hartman — an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant who works at Calgary Foothills PCN’s Riley Park Maternity Clinic — shares five benefits of breastfeeding:

  1. Babies receive antibodies and immunities from breast milk.
  2. Breast milk decreases the likelihood of illnesses like asthma, diabetes and ear infections for the baby.
  3. Breast milk decreases the likelihood of illnesses — like cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure — for the breastfeeding parent.
  4. Breastfeeding reduces the amount of post-partum bleeding the parent may experience.
  5. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, which increases the bond between parent and baby.

Learn more reasons why breastfeeding benefits you and your baby.

A woman breastfeeds her baby and looks down on it lovingly.

Get support: Addressing concerns and uncertainty

When it comes to breastfeeding – especially for new parents – there may be uncertainty around expectations and what is best for both parent and child. Riley Park Maternity Clinic aims to combat this uncertainty and provides support with services including a breastfeeding clinic, virtual breastfeeding classes and post-partum care.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to breastfeeding. A lactation consultant can tailor care to each patient and help keep the parent from feeling overwhelmed,” says Dr. Hartman.

“The PCN provides a great system because it creates a smooth transition of care from family doctors and registered nurses to lactation consultants. Patients don’t need to go at this alone — there is support when and where you need it.”

Riley Park Maternity Clinic can also connect patients with dietitians, pharmacists, social workers and mental health counsellors to ensure the parent and baby are receiving the right care.

For parents who cannot or do not want to breastfeed, there are other feeding methods to ensure the health of both parent and baby. Dr. Hartman suggests pursuing alternatives such as donor milk, pumping and formula.

“Above all else, I recommend patients be kind to themselves,” says Dr. Hartman. “Parents can feel a lot of guilt, and my job is to help them get the care they need. There are options, so make sure you talk to your doctor if you are struggling or unsure.”

Get more information on how to access services at Riley Park Maternity Clinic.