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Breastfeeding encouraged

Erin Fletcher
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Mar 15/04) - Inuvik moms were encouraged to breastfeed their children during a recent public presentation.

"That's what (breasts) are there for," said Ruth Wright, a mother of eight who now coaches young moms through their pregnancies.

Although not everyone who attends her presentations starts out wanting to breastfeed, Wright soon persuades them it's the best thing to do for their babies.

"They end up doing it for two or three years," Wright said shortly after the presentation, which was attended by 12 Inuvik moms, dads and health professionals on March 1.

Wright said she breastfed her children for a total of 24 years from the first to her last child, many of them until they were four or five years old.

She said teen moms are the hardest to convince when it comes to breastfeeding.

"Teens don't want to breast feed because they don't want to ruin their firm breasts," said Wright. "But I make them (try it) for two months. Most continue on for longer."

Healthy Babies program co-ordinator Linda Eccles said many young moms are scared of breastfeeding.

Jack Newman, a Toronto expert on breastfeeding who spoke at the conference said the answer is to show more images of breastfeeding in public and make it more acceptable in our culture.

"We forget what (breasts) are there for," he said.

Breastfeeding is gaining popularity among modern Canadian moms, Newman said.

Thirty years ago almost no one in Canada was breastfeeding, said Newman, a Toronto-based specialist. Now more than 90 per cent of Canadian women start out breastfeeding and about half of those continue long after they leave the hospital, said Newman.

Better than a bottle

"The real problem is many don't continue and the reason they give is mothers feel they don't produce enough milk," said Newman. "Modern society has made modern women concerned they can't reproduce and they can't breastfeed."

As a bottle fed baby, Karen Mitchell wanted something better for her daughter, who is now five.

Mitchell was adopted into a family of breastfed children and said she notices a difference between her physical, emotional and mental well-being and that of her siblings.

"(Breastfeeding) is healthier and it's about bonding," she said.

But it wasn't easy to do.

"(Being out in) public was the hardest thing for me," said Mitchell. "Women shouldn't listen to other women's horror stories. My daughter latched on well and I'm thankful for that."