First Impressions on Breastfeeding in Canada

“I make milk, what is your superpower?”

We migrated to Toronto, Canada last 2017 and immediately what I looked for in a first world country are amenities for breastfeeding. We came from the Philippines and breastfeeding is strongly encouraged over there. Mothers have this power to demand amenities from private and public establishments to have at least a breastfeeding station for them.

In the Philippines, companies have their own pumping stations dedicated for working Moms that need to pump milk. Our HR policies also indicate that Moms can use at least 1 hour of their work to pump milk. We have strong support groups like Breastfeeding Pinays and leaders like Nay Ines Avellana who upholds the breastfeeding advocacy.

When we  migrated, I then compared Canada with Philippines when it comes to breastfeeding and I immediately noticed are the lack of nursing or breastfeeding stations in establishments like malls and tourist centers. There are only a handful of tourist centers like Ripley’s Aquarium that have nursing stations dedicated to Moms.

Four months down the road, we got the chance to visit Vancouver and Montreal. The same concern happened to me, which is the lack of nursing stations available for Mothers. Am I just glad that my little one is now 2 years old so breastfeeding is not an occurrence for every 2 hours? YES! So, I imagined myself in the shoes of Moms with breastfeeding infant with them, how can they survive this type of set-up? Well, yes there are nursing covers sold everywhere and the easiest way to get one is through Amazon but their comfort and privacy are not prioritized. Also, lucky them if their little ones are okay to breastfeed with a nursing cover that covers their face. My little one is very fuzzy when I use a nursing cover when he was younger that one year old. He just does not like the concept of something covering him while he breastfeeds and of course he loves to play with the other nipple that is free.

Another concern I faced is the lack of a pumping station in the current office that I work for in Mississauga. I do not know about other buildings if they have pumping stations for Moms but lucky for me that at this stage I do not need to pump. I only breastfeed my little one before daycare, immediately when we arrive home that is before dinner, and during sleep. Yes, I still have not yet had the chance to sleep 8 hours straight because my two year old still loves to breastfeed at night.

And then I searched for a support group for Breastfeeding Moms in Facebook that are dedicated to those who live in Canada. Lucky for you ladies because La Leche League has a branch here in Canada. Also, Dr. Jack Newman has a clinic in Toronto that strongly supports breastfeeding. This is such a strong support system for breastfeeding Moms! In the Philippines we do not have this easy access to the big leagues on breastfeeding. Now here comes my concern with booking an appointment with Dr. Jack because each appointment is $65 + HST ($73.45) to cover the fees of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants which are not covered by OHIP. OHIP is a health card for Ontario residents that covers medical fees, which attracted us in the first place when migrating to Canada (Free Health Care). One thing that I can think of is why are lactation consultants not covered by OHIP? Hence, I think Moms can shy away from a cost of booking an appointment.

What I did on my end is that I looked for a pediatrician that is covered by OHIP. Here comes the bigger concern, our pediatrician is NOT a breastfeeding advocate! This pediatrician wanted me to immediately stop breastfeeding for the following reasons:

  • It disrupts the ability of the little one to sleep through the night
  • It destroys the teeth of little one
  • It is not fatty hence my little one is not gaining enough weight
  • It does not encourage independence

This is the first time for me to hear these reasons coming from a pediatrician! In the Philippines you will never hear this from doctors because they are all encouraged to promote breastfeeding even if in they are not supportive in their own opinion. Then I have a friend from Winnipeg who is also a breastfeeding advocate, she said the same encounter happened to her and her little one’s pediatrician.

Another difference I found is on the labeling in the containers of infant formulas. As seen in the pictures below, the formula milk containers in the Philippines have this description, “BREASTMILK IS THE BEST FOR BABIES UP TO 2 YEARS OF AGE AND BEYOND.”

Now I compared it to the formula milk containers found in Canada, and it lacks the breastmilk description as seen in the pictures below:

Society wise, in the Philippines there are Moms that breastfeed anywhere and anytime without the fear of being discriminated but here in Canada I have seen news like this one that shamed an Alberta hockey Mom online. There are comments in the post that are scary especially to new Moms.

These challenges in breastfeeding encouraged and pushed me to building this website and this Facebook support group that will help breastfeeding Canadian Moms out there. I hope someday my voice will reach out to every breastfeeding Canadian Mom and hopefully the government so that they can provide more support to mothers even right from the start of pregnancy. In my Facebook page, I encountered one Mom who said that lactation consultants are not available beyond 3:30PM and no one was there to support her when she gave birth and wanted to breastfeed her little one. But baby’s gotta feed so she was forced to start with formula. For those Moms who have the same encounter as hers, my heart goes to you. I feel your pain when there is not enough support system.

I do hope that you will find this website informative, assist you in your breastfeeding journey, and hopefully give you more strength in holding on to breastfeeding. Believe me, there are a lot of factors that will cause you to stop it. 🙂

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