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Wanted: A More Baby-Friendly Political Vision

Thursday, April 27, 2006
I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at the Hamilton prenatal fair in Hamilton, Ontario, on Tuesday night. (I gave a presentation entitled "Healthy Mom, Healthy Dad: Conceiving of Becoming Parents" which talked about thinking about the health and lifestyle choices you should be making and the type of parent you want to be as you start trying to conceive, when you're pregnant, and once baby arrives on the scene.)

Hamilton has a terrific health unit -- one that does a great job of coming up with creative ways of educating and reassuring parents. (I loved the display at the health fair this time around which showed the size of a newborn baby's stomach and how much breastmilk a newborn baby needed during the first day of life. Once expectant parents saw the alley-sized tummy and the tiny splash of breastmilk (actually colostrum) that a baby needed for sustinance during the early hours of life, they'd be less likely to offer baby any sort of supplement (something that can interfere with the supply-and-demand rhythm of breastfeeding when breastfeeding is being established).

Hamilton also has the distinction of being home to one of just four Canadian hospitals that have a been designated baby-friendly in the eyes of UNICEF and the WHO. According to the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, the following four hospitals have met this criteria:

1. Installation Hopital Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins du Centre de sante et de services sociaux la Pommeraie 950, rue Principale Cowansville (Quebec) J2K 1K3 Tel:450-266-5503 Designated in July 1999. Designation confirmed in November 2004

2. St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton 50 Charlton Avenue E. Hamilton ON L8N 4A6 Tel: 905-522-4941 Designated in March 2003

3. Centre hospitalier Saint-Eustache 520, boul. Arthur-Sauve Saint-Eustache (Quebec) J7R 5B1 Tel: (450) 473-6811 Designated in May 2004

4. Maison de naissance Mimosa du Centre de sante et de services sociaux du Grand Littoral 182, rue de l`Eglise Saint-Romuald (Quebec) G6W 3G9 Tel: 418-839-0205 Designated in January 2005

This really got me thinking about all the hospitals that haven't met this criteria -- and how we're taking such a backwards approach to trying to deal with skyrocketing healthcare costs in this country. If every hospital was required to be baby-friendly, many more babies would be breastfed, and the incidence of childhood disease (including childhood obesity) would be much lower. And mothers wouldn't experience the same frustrations as they do when they aren't fully supported in their efforts to breastfeed, something that can massively increase the challenges that new parents already face during the early weeks of baby's life. When you consider all the benefits of breastfeeding (to mom, to baby, and to society, in terms of reduced healthcare costs, reduced environmental impact, reduced absenteeism in order to deal with a sick child), it's obvious that everyone wins when breastfeeding is successful. Why, then, aren't the provincial and federal governments making it mandatory that every hospital in this country come up with a strategy for achieving baby-friendly status -- and then investing the revenue needed to make that possible? Surely the long-term payoffs (personal, societal, fiscal, environmental) would more than justify the investment.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:13 AM