Krista Simard knew how lucky she was to have great supports when it came to breastfeeding her first child.
“I was pretty fortunate; I had really great resources,” said the Sarnia mother of two, pointing to a handful of influential women in her life, including her mother, sister-in-law and midwife who helped make first-time nursing — which can be daunting for some — a smooth transition.
“It wasn’t perfect but at least I had someone there.”
But knowing that not all moms have adequate supports prompted Simard to get involved in a new initiative designed to provide Sarnia-Lambton moms with the support and information they need to establish a positive breastfeeding experience.
She’s one of 25 women who have signed on to be “Breastfeeding Buddies” through the North Lambton Community Health Centre.
Designed as a free, peer-to-peer telephone support program, the “Buddies” are volunteers who have at least six months of breastfeeding experience and have completed a certified training course. They’re available to give tips, share knowledge and experiences and help connect moms in need with other community breastfeeding resources.
“Our goal is to give women good information to make infant feeding decisions, rather than having them make those decisions based on social media and marketing companies or incorrect advice from inexperienced or misinformed friends and family or health professionals,” said program facilitator Lynne Brown, noting sometimes a new mom just needs someone to talk to. “We are not in competition with other breastfeeding support services; we are only complementing them.”
The 25 ‘buddies’ are located across Lambton County, including the First Nation communities of Aamjiwnaang, and Kettle & Stony Point, and are matched based on location, as well as shared factors like having multiples, and C-section births. Brown noted that buddies can even arrange in-person meetings if they wish.
“We’re modeled after a peer support program in Kitchener-Waterloo, where they’ve had tremendous success,” said Brown. “Peer support is a really good way to support new moms.”
For many women, the intent to breastfeed is there, Brown noted, but rates tend to drop off steeply.
In 2012 more than 91% of Ontario mothers initiated breastfeeding, according to Statistics Canada, but only 61% were breastfeeding exclusively on leaving hospital. And just 33% of mothers breastfed exclusively for six months or longer.
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. As for the moms, research suggests breastfeeding may lower rates of certain types of ovarian and breast cancer and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
“We were intended to breastfeed, but we’ve sort of moved away from that,” said Brown. “If we can even get to that six month mark, that is our goal.”
For more information on the Breastfeeding Buddies program, contact Lynne Brown at [email protected] or call 519-786-4545 ext. 231.