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October 2, 2000
Breastfeeding: It's Your right
Toronto Public Health - Toronto Public Health celebrates World Breastfeeding
Week from October 1-7. This year's theme is Breastfeeding: It's Your Right!
These rights include: the right of women to breastfeed whenever and wherever
their babies are in need; a mother's right to make an informed choice on how to
feed her infant; and, the right of children to the best security and
nourishment their parents are capable of providing.

Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health says, "Toronto Public
Health supports the right of mothers to breastfeed their babies anytime,
anywhere because breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for mothers and babies."

Do you know your breastfeeding rights? Women have the right to breastfeed
anywhere, whether at home, at work, or in public and the right to be supported
by society in this decision. The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a
policy in 1999 protecting women from discrimination during pregnancy and
breastfeeding. All children have the right to adequate food and nutrition to
ensure healthy development from birth. Ideally this means only breastmilk for
the first six months and, breastmilk together with other foods for two years
and beyond. Women require correct information and support to be able to
breastfeed rather than overwhelming advertising about breastfeeding
substitutes. Good prenatal care and mother and baby-friendly health facilities
also support women's right to breastfeed.

What should you do if you are asked to stop breastfeeding? Here are some
suggestions. If you are asked to leave a public place because you are
breastfeeding, do whatever you need to do to ensure your child can feed
comfortably. If you would be more comfortable leaving, leave. Then follow up
later, when your baby is fed. Speak to the manager and explain your rights to
feed your child. Be firm but polite. Follow up with a letter. If you were
satisfied with how the situation was handled, say so! Appreciation can go a
long way to building good will. If you were not satisfied, include a reminder
that women and children have the right to breastfeed in public places. Suggest
they contact the Ontario Human Rights Commission at 416-326-9511 for

Consider filing a human rights complaint. Take notes: where you were, what
happened, when it happened, whom you spoke to, what was said. You will need
this information if you file a human rights complaint. If you feel
comfortable, approach the media with your story. Remember - you and your child
have the right to breastfeed wherever you are. By speaking up, you're helping
all mothers and children by making your community more breastfeeding friendly.

Toronto Public Health provides support and information for breastfeeding
through prenatal classes, home visits, parenting groups and return-to-work
groups. Call Toronto Public Health's, Toronto Health Connection at
416-338-7600 to find out more about these services.

Fact Sheet

Toronto Public Health -
Every baby deserves breastmilk!

· Toronto Public Health supports the right of mothers to breastfeed their
babies anytime, anywhere.
· Breastfeeding is the ideal source of nutrition for infants during the first
six months of life and beyond.
· Breastfeeding provides babies with protection against respiratory and ear
infections, allergies, diarrhea, tummy upsets and much more.
· Breastfeeding is related to better intellectual development.
· Breastfeeding nurtures the special relationship between mother and baby.
· Breastfeeding provides mothers with protection from ovarian cancer and
pre-menopausal breast cancer.
· Breastfeeding is low in cost for families too!

Breastfeeding Support

Often women need information and support to assist with breastfeeding. Here are
some ways Toronto Public Health can help with breastfeeding:

1. Prenatal classes are available to learn specifically about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is also a regular topic at free prenatal classes organized
through public health.

2. Home visits are available. A public health nurse either phones or visits in
person to help mothers with any concerns they may have in the early days home
from the hospital.

3. Parenting groups provide information and support from a public health nurse
once mother and baby are well enough to go out. Topics include breastfeeding,
introduction to solid foods and general parenting information.

4. Return-to-Work Groups provide information about how to continue the
breastfeeding relationship between mother and child when returning to work.

Call Toronto Public Health's "Toronto Health Connection" at 416-338-7600 to
find out more about these services or for breastfeeding information.

Breastfeeding Question and Answers

Q. What percentage of mothers breastfeed?

A. Recent Canadian Statistics show that almost 75% of mothers begin
breastfeeding in hospital but this drops off significantly in the first 4 weeks
after birth.

Q. Why do they stop?

A. The usual reasons are lack of correct information, help and support.
Breastfeeding is natural but some mothers and babies need help to get started.
Unfortunately many women never see another woman breastfeed before they have
their own baby.

Q. How long should a mother breastfeed? What is the ideal?

A. How long a mother breastfeeds is an individual choice but we do know that
breastmilk is the ideal source of nutrition for infants during the first six
months of life and beyond.

Q. Are you saying that formula is harmful for babies?

A. We are saying that breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. It is human
milk for human babies. Breastmilk contains elements, such as immunities, that
cannot be manufactured and it also changes and adapts to the needs of the
baby. For example, when it is very hot the mother's breastmilk has a higher
water content to meet the needs of the baby at that time.

Q. What about mothers who can't or don't want to breastfeed?

A. In reality there are very few women who cannot breastfeed, if given the
right help. But for those who can't Toronto Public Health will support them.
We also support a mother's right to make an informed choice on how to feed her

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