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PROMOTING BREAST IS BEST October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Awareness Week in Newfoundland and Labrador, and thanks to a series of creative YouTube videos, breastfeeding is getting some well deserved attention


s I sat down to write this, a realization washed over me. At 43, I have spent nearly one quarter of my life breastfeeding, and I only have two youngsters. OK, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much because I nursed my children for three-and-a-half years each. So, with seven years of breastfeeding experience under my now retired nursing bra, which is most definitely under any collar I own, I’m probably as qualified as anyone to write on the matter. First off, being an extended breastfeeder- defined as someone who nurses beyond their child’s first year- is one of the things I’m most proud of. Why? Because starting out in the role of food-maker wasn’t an easy one for me, yet I kept at it. My son, who was born in Ontario, came into this world weighing nearly 11 pounds. When the nurse brought him to me

for his first feeding, she wagged a finger in my face and barked; “Stick him on, and leave him there.” She wasn’t kidding. Feeding such a brute of a newborn meant usually very private parts of my body were in action around the clock. I had little choice; my child was always hungry. He was also colicky, which meant that when I wasn’t feeding him I was doing whatever I could to keep the bawling to a minimum, which also often involved sticking something of mine into a wide-open mouth.

THE MILK-MAKER And living in Ontario meant there was little family around for support. Except for one extended trip back home to this province, it was just my always working hubby and me, the milk-maker. Plus maternity leave was only six months long at the time, and I went back to work a leaking, nursing mother who took quick run-outs to deliver take-out to my son in the car if he was brought to me, or provided at home delivery at the sitters if he wasn’t. No, deciding to breastfeed for at least the first year of my son’s life wasn’t an easy commitment to make or to keep. But I did it. And then suddenly, around the seven month mark, nursing became much easier and much more enjoyable. Nursing my lad had suddenly became as much about me relaxing at the end of a busy day and enjoying my child as

“11 years later, armed with three-and-ahalf years of breastfeeding experience, there was never any doubt that I would nurse my second child for as long as I — Pam Pardy-Ghent could.”

e e 24 The Newfoundland Herald September 29, 2013


“Some people were judgemental about that but she loved it and I loved it and once I got past the challenges of the first — Mary Lewis, local filmmaker few months, it was great.” it was about providing any actual nutrients. When you nurse, especially a busy toddler, you have to sit. Busy mothers rarely find time for rest and relaxation at the end of a work day, and never in the first hour or so of being home. But when you breastfeed, sitting, staying, and relaxing so the milk flows, has to come first. 11 years later, armed with three-and-a-half years of breastfeeding experience, there was never any doubt that I would nurse my second child for as long as I could. And this time around, things went much smoother and I hit the ground running. I enjoyed nursing right from the start, and set no end date. If I could work outside the home and nurse the first one for 42-odd months, then being a stay at home nursing mother would be a breeze. It was. But as I discovered in my first go-round, nursing doesn’t come as easy to all mothers. And, judging from this province’s low initiation rates, more can be done to increase the awareness that at least attempting to breastfeed is important. In 2000, less than 60 per cent of women in Newfoundland and Labrador hospitals started breastfeeding their babies, the lowest rates in the country. By 2011 we had reached an impressive 66.7 per cent, and while those numbers continue to grow, those in health care fields would like to see a more dramatic increase. The Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Perinatal Program (NLPPP), funded by the Provincial Department of Health and Community Services and supported by Eastern Health Authority, along with the Breastfeeding Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador has developed some creative YouTube videos aimed at upping those rates.

with breastfeeding is one of the leading reasons women say they decided not to. “Most reasons were cultural, their mothers hadn’t done it, husbands or fathers didn’t think they should and women were somewhat ashamed to attempt it.” Knowing those reasons, Lewis felt she knew the best approach to take. “Why not have a bunch of high profile and not so high profile Newfoundlanders; men, women, grandmothers, women who had children, women who didn’t. Just basically have a representation of society.” This representation includes some high profile celebrities like Mark Critch and Pete Soucy’s popular NTV’s Stuff About Stuff character, Snook. “People would recognize them, be proud of them and feel some ownership of who they are. And if they said things like, ‘hey why not? or ‘yes! Do it! Then you are hearing a chorus of voices who are affirming breastfeeding,”

“IMPORTANT TO ME” Well-known local filmmaker Mary Lewis said jumping on board was a no-brainer. “I’m a mother. I breastfed my child, who is now eight. And I always had that type of mothering in mind, even as a young child I always imagined that “I have to be honest and say it was hard, but that’s how I would feed my child and of course when I wanted to put in the effort.” — Teresa Ennis I had a child it became very important to me,” she So far the videos have over 35000 views. So, is the mesbegins. But like many have discovered, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. “There were times when there were chal- sage getting out? Well-known singer/songwriter Teresa Ennis appeared lenges with breastfeeding but it was very important for me to do it, not only for the health of my child, but also in one video with her sisters Maureen and Karen. Teresa wasn’t even pregnant at the time, but now she is home for my own personal experience.” Lewis nursed until her daughter was two-and-a-half. breastfeeding her one month old daughter Rose. Teresa “Some people were judgemental about that but she loved says she and Rose are starting to settle into a routine, and it and I loved it and once I got past the challenges of the while breastfeeding is going smoothly now, that first week was a tough one. “I have to be honest and say it was hard, first few months, it was great.” When Lewis was asked to be involved with a series of but I wanted to put in the effort,” she shares. Teresa called videos promoting breastfeeding she said of course, par- in the troupes, everyone from a lactation consultant to ticularly because she learned that the stigma associated her husband, mother and sisters. “Everyone kept saying, September 29, 2013 The Newfoundland Herald 25


“I hate to brag and make out that formula fed babies are not as healthy, but my kids have the immune system — Connie Parsons of an ox.”

Maurice Fitzgerald Photo

weaned themselves when they were ready. She suspects the same will happen this time around, though there is no rush. The reasons are many, like the health of her children. “I hate to brag and make out that formula fed babies are not as healthy, but my kids have the immune system of an ox. The thing is, I want to encourage other people but I don’t want to sound condescending if their choice is different, or if they can’t. I don’t want to preach, but if any one wants to hear it, I will talk for hours. I think everyone should give it at least an effort.” ‘you can do this,’ and that helped. If they said, ‘stop. It isn’t worth it,’ it would have been much easier to stop. That’s the value of videos like this. Knowing that other women go through this and that there is this support there. That was important for me for keeping this up.” Teresa says, even though she wasn’t a mother at the time, getting involved was important. “It is a great cause to support, but it really wasn’t relevant to me at the time and I didn’t really understand what it meant to breastfeed but now having a baby I completely understand and knowing that there is support out there is so important. I know that first hand now.”

“I WANT TO ENCOURAGE” Connie Parsons is one busy mom. She has a son, Sam, who is almost nine, and three daughters, Mary Grace who is seven, Julie Anne who is almost three and Maggie Belle who is five weeks old. Parsons nursed all four. While there is no saying how long her youngest will nurse for, she breastfed the others for almost a year-and-ahalf each. And she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s sometimes hard that first six months, but once you get to six months it’s easy, so why would I stop then? You’re past all the hard stuff. I wouldn’t even know where to start with formula,” she says. Parsons says her children all

“(breastfeeding) ... it just makes so much sense from a nutrition, convenience and cost standpoint. — Pete Soucy, AKA Snoook 26 The Newfoundland Herald September 29, 2013

“A NATURAL THING” Pete Soucy might seem an odd breast feeding advocate but as a father of two, and grandfather of two, he too has an investment. He’s also going to be a new dad on January 1st, so breastfeeding is important to him. “I was asked if I’d be interested in participating in the video as Snook and I guess she was looking for a little bit of variety in the piece and a little bit of a comic interruption and the cause is one that I’m fully on board with, it just makes so much sense from a nutrition, convenience and cost standpoint. A no-brainer really. It was one of those things, if I could participate and lend a hand I would and I should,” he says. Soucy feels that many don’t breastfeed because they feel somewhat socially squeamish about it. If he could help remove the discomfort, then he was all for it. “Breastfeeding seems like such a natural thing. It seems bizarre that we would have to overcome any issue. But, if I can help, then I will.” Soucy say he and his partner will be breastfeeding their new baby. It is, he says, a natural thing. He’ll also be doing his part, he says, no mater how small or messy a part that may be in the early stages. “I fully intent to take care of one end while she takes care of the other.” Teresa says don’t knock diaper duty dads! That’s one very important support role that helps a breastfeeding mother. “I had trouble at the start, but I didn’t have to give it up because I had such great support and encouragement. If I had someone there saying, ‘this isn’t worth it, just don’t do it’ then maybe I would have stopped. But having help and support, even with the diapers, helped so much. Breastfeeding is worth the effort.”

NL Herald - Promoting Breast is Best  
NL Herald - Promoting Breast is Best  

Article by Pam Phardy Ghent discussing the breastfeeding promotional efforts by the Baby Friendly Council and local celebrities and moms