Updated: Jul 31
At the Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA), we honour and encourage Indigenous women to embrace their biological gift to nourish their children. We are celebrating this World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) by providing educational resources to promote breastfeeding. Learn about the benefits, challenges, and resources available to those who are breastfeeding.
From August 1-14, submit something you learned or a question you have about breastfeeding at forms.office.com/r/HFeEGkx2mn to be entered into our draw for 1 of 3 breastfeeding giveaways!
We will be developing a Breastfeeding FAQ guided by your submissions.
As the Creator gifted women with the ability to reproduce and create life, women were also gifted with the biological feature, specific to them, to nourish a child from within. This inherent part of a woman enables them to provide vitamins and antibodies that cannot be genetically reproduced and are specific to the needs of the baby. Breastfeeding creates a closeness and bond that is an extension of the relationship started in the womb. They say that breastfeeding is best, but what is most important, whether it be breast or bottle, is what works best for mom and baby.
Fun Fact #1
Breastfeeding mother’s typically sleep an extra 45 minutes more a night, compared to those who don’t.
Your breast milk will change monthly, weekly, daily and even throughout single feeds to meet the needs of your growing baby. Mothers of premature babies have breast milk with more protein, fat, and other minerals for bone and brain growth and more protective factors that prevent illness and infection.
Historically, Indigenous mothers breastfed their young. If they were unable to produce milk, or had any issues, other members of the community would step in and help breastfeed their children.
Recipe - No Bake Lactation Bites
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup ground or milled flaxseed
3 tbsp brewer’s yeast
1 cup peanut butter or almond butter
½ cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup dark chocolate chips
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add all ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Mix on low speed until mixture is well combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
Roll mixture into 2 tablespoon sized smooth balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or enjoy right away. Once the bites have set, transfer them to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Fun Fact #2
Your breast milk will change in smell and taste based on the foods you eat. Eating a variety of foods and exposing baby to different flavors during breastfeeding can help them to be less picky as they grow!
The amount of breast milk you can produce is not based on the size of your breasts. A mom with small breasts can produce just as much, or more, milk as a mom with large breasts.
Recipe - Basic Overnight Oat’s for Breastfeeding Mothers
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup milk of choice (almond, soy, oat, etc.)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
1-2 tbsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, etc.)
Optional add in ingredients: fresh fruit, chia seeds, flax seeds, nut butters, dark chocolate, or cocoa powder
Mix all ingredients and your choice of add-ins in a jar. Stir until combined. Cover with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to eat, top overnight oats with a splash of your favourite milk, fresh fruit, ground nuts and sweetener to your preference and enjoy!
Fun Fact #3
Colostrum is the milk that comes in the first few days after birth. This is generally referred to as “Liquid Gold”. This milk has the calcium, potassium, proteins, minerals and antibodies your baby needs. Even just a few teaspoons of this milk will help your baby stay healthy until your milk flow increases.
Breast milk can be blue, green, yellow (gold) pink, or orange depending on what you eat or drink.
Recipe - Pumpkin Spice Lactation Smoothie
1 ½ cups milk of choice
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
1 carrot (chopped)
½ cup mango (fresh or frozen)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
Optional add in ingredients: 1 tbsp collagen peptides, honey/sweetener to taste, handful of ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy & smooth. Top with whipped cream and crushed walnuts if desired. Enjoy!
Benefits to Mom
Breastfeeding moms often lose weight without additional exercise as breastfeeding can burn 500-600 calories a day.
Breastfeeding releases the prolactin and oxytocin hormones that help mom and baby to bond, and ease feelings of stress.
Mothers who breastfeed are at a lower risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the more protection she has.
Breastfeeding is a cost effective way to feed your baby and to help you save money!
Benefits to Baby
Babies who are breastfed are at a lower risk of cavities later in life, and it may lower the change they will need braces.
Babies who are breastfed are at a lower risk for ear infections, respiratory infections, stomach problems and diarrhea.
Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of asthma, diabetes and childhood obesity.
Antibodies and live white blood cells that help your baby fight against infection are present in breast milk. When mom or baby are sick, the amount of these cells in your breast milk increases.
Self-Care for Mom’s During Breastfeeding
During your breastfeeding journey, although you are your babies' main source of nutrition, you need to ensure you are taking care of yourself as well.
Ways to care for yourself:
Stay Hydrated – drink plenty of fluids but try to limit sugary drinks!
Eat in a Balanced Way – ensure you are choosing healthy food choices when you are able.
Move Your Body – relieve stress through physical activity. Your body makes endorphins (the happy chemical) before and after you exercise.
Rest When You Can – It is easier said than done with a newborn, but try to sleep as much as possible to help your body recover.
Build a Support System – reach out to family, a friend or a worker to provide helpful advice or support.
Take Time For Yourself – take time for yourself to go for a walk, have lunch with a friend or just nap while a trusted person watches your baby for a bit.
Traditional Medicines to Assist in Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a rite of passage in many cultures around the world. Here are a few traditional Indigenous medicines to assist in breastfeeding:
Stinging Nettle (Tea/Infusion from leaves)
Beneficial for use before and during pregnancy.
High in Vitamins A, C, D, Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron and Sulphur.
Increases richness and amount of breastmilk.
Harvest: When harvesting stinging nettle, wear gloves due to stinging hair along the stems. Make sure to harvest in the late spring/early summer. They are commonly found near streams/banks.
Raspberry Leaf (Tea/Infusion from leaves)
Can drink before and during pregnancy.
Assists in the production of breastmilk.
Raspberries act as blood tonic and are high in vitamins A, C, B, E, Magnesium, Calcium, Iron and Phosphorus.
Harvest: They are typically found in woodland clearings. The top first year leaf growth are the best to use. Harvest in the spring/early summer before the berries start to form.
Wild Mint (Tea and/or wash from leaves)
Anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic.
Aids in muscle and menstrual cramps, as well as lowers fevers.
Cold tea can be used as a compress to help with aches, pains, arthritis, mastitis and fevers.
Harvest: Wild mint is found along banks of water (lakes, rivers etc.) and can also be found in meadows. Harvest throughout the summer to early fall.
Cedar (Smudge, bath, wash, and spray from leaves and stems)
*do not ingest while pregnant*
Protective and removes negativity.
Supports healing from past traumas and grief.
Detoxifying and high in vitamin C.
Harvest: Can be harvested all year long. Make sure to clean cut with scissors/snippers to avoid exposing the tree to infection. They are typically found in wooded areas near water.
How to Safely Store Breastmilk
Keep milk at room temperature. Breastmilk is OK for up to 4 hours after pumping at room temperature (up to 77°F).
Refrigerate it. Breastmilk is OK in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Place milk in the freezer. If you're not going to use refrigerated breastmilk within 4 days of pumping, freeze it right after pumping.
Use cooler packs. You can put breastmilk in a cooler or insulated cooler pack with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours after pumping. After 24 hours in a cooler the breastmilk should be refrigerated or frozen.
What to use:
When storing breastmilk, use breastmilk storage bags, which are made for freezing human milk. You can also use clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids. Do not use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breastmilk.
Tips for Freezing Milk:
Clearly label milk containers with the date the milk was expressed. Include your child's name if you are giving the milk to a childcare provider.
Freeze in small amounts (2 to 4 ounces, or ¼ to ½ cups) for later feedings.
Leave an inch or so from the milk to the top of the container, because it will get bigger when freezing.
Store milk in the back of the freezer, not on the shelf of the freezer door, so that it doesn't start to thaw out.
Tips for Thawing/ Warming Breastmilk:
Thaw the oldest breastmilk first.
Thaw the bottle or bag of frozen milk by putting it in the refrigerator overnight.
If you decide to warm the breastmilk:
Hold it under warm, not hot, running water, or set it in a container of water that is warm, not hot.
Never put a bottle or bag of breastmilk in the microwave. Microwaving creates hot spots that could burn your baby and damage the milk.
Test the temperature before feeding it to your baby by dropping some on your wrist. The milk should feel warm, not hot.
Use breastmilk within 24 hours of thawing it in the refrigerator.
Once breastmilk is thawed, use it within 2 hours. If you have any leftover milk, be sure to throw it out within 2 hours.
Do not refreeze breastmilk after it has been thawed.
Challenges and how to overcome them/Mastitis
Soon after your baby's birth, your nipples may be sensitive or tender as they adjust to breastfeeding. Here are some causes of nipple pain and solutions.
Baby's latch and positioning
Improper latch-on occurs when baby does not grasp enough breast tissue or his tongue is positioned improperly, causing pain and discomfort.
If it feels painful, you can unlatch your baby by slipping a finger in the corner of her mouth to break the suction. Then you can try latching again. Try improving the latch by bringing your baby’s chin deeply onto your breast. Or you could gently pull down on the baby’s chin to uncurl the lower lip.
If your nipple itches, burns, cracks, or is pink or flaky, or you have shooting pain deep in your breast between feedings, you may have a fungal (yeast) infection called thrush. This infection can also cause white spots on your baby's cheeks, tongue, and gums.
If you think you have thrush, use only water to rinse your nipples after nursing. Then see your doctor or your baby's doctor right away. Both you and your baby will need to be treated for thrush with antibiotics.
A milk blister, or bleb, is a smooth, shiny, white dot on your nipple.
Warm washcloth compresses, massaging and expressing some milk may help relieve it. If the blister doesn't go away, contact your doctor or midwife.
Sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples
It is normal for your breasts to become more sensitive in the first weeks after you have given birth. They may sting, burn, ache, or feel tender. Over time, the discomfort and sensitivity should resolve.
Lanolin Ointment: Apply to nipples after breast-feeding. It doesn’t need to be removed before nursing your baby.
Nipple Shield: Wearing a shield could help your nipples heal and allow continued breastfeeding.
Warm Compress: Applying a warm compress (towel or washcloth) will aid to reduce breast pain and will also help to reduce nipple pain or swelling.
What is “mastitis?”
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. People experiencing mastitis may also have fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects people who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis).
Mastitis in breastfeeding usually happens when a clogged milk duct doesn't let milk fully drain from the breast or breaks in the skin of the nipple.
Breast pain (mastalgia) or burning sensation that worsens when your baby nurses.
Hard lumps on your breast.
Red marks on your breast.
Flu-like symptoms, including fever and chills if mastitis infection occurs.
*It’s important when breastfeeding to allow both breasts to express milk*
At-home treatment for inflammatory mastitis includes:
Ice: Use an ice pack or a frozen bag of vegetables to reduce swelling while laying on your back so the swelling drains into your lymph nodes. You shouldn’t apply heat.
Pain relievers: Using over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen or naproxen can reduce swelling and pain.
Lymphatic drainage: Lymphatic drainage involves gentle, light “petting of a cat” pressure of your breast toward your lymph nodes above your collar bones and in your armpit. It reduces swelling by moving fluid. This isn’t as strong of pressure as a massage.
Reverse pressure softening (RPS): This type of massage reduces swelling in your areola and nipple by moving the fluid away from it. It allows your baby to latch more easily to a full breast. To perform RPS, place two fingertips around the base of your nipple. Apply pressure, then drag your fingers away from your nipple. Do this at several angles around your nipple.
Wear a supportive bra: A supportive bra isn’t tight-fitting and doesn’t put more pressure on your breasts.
Aggressively massage your breast.
Use any type of massaging device on your breast.
Soak your breast in anything.
*Consult your healthcare practitioner if you believe you are experiencing symptoms.*
“Breastfeeding all 5 of my children was the best decision I ever made. It allowed me to save money and time, and it provided comfort for both myself and my children. I feel empowered being able to feed my kids with the body creator gave me.”
“To the moms that tried to breastfeed and feel like they failed; even trying you were successful in breastfeeding. It’s not an easy journey, you did what was best for your baby. Honor yourself, be kind to yourself, you did amazing!“
“After my daughter was born prematurely and spent 6 weeks in the NICU, I was determined to breastfeed her. I felt since we didn’t get to bond through her birth, I wanted to solidify our attachment through nourishing her with my body. I was so thankful for the support from various services to help me and my daughter succeed with our 16 month breastfeeding journey.”
“My breastfeeding journey started out a bit rocky. Thankfully, I had wonderful support around me who continued to encourage me. Breastfeeding also helped me to be more mindful of my own health so that I could continue to care for my son in the best way. It was not always easy, but it was always rewarding for both of us.”
Most midwives, family doctors and nurse practitioners are also able to assist you with your breastfeeding journey!
Resources for Lactation Support in Ontario
Bilingual 24/7 Breastfeeding Support
Ontario Government Breastfeeding Page
24-hour breastfeeding/chestfeeding support at 1-866-797-0000 or TTY 1-866-797-0007
Have another experienced breastfeeding mother phone you to give the support you need, or talk to a prenatal programmer for resources.
Resources for Lactation Support in Thunder Bay
Ontario Native Women’s Association – Indigenous Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program
Thunder Bay District Health Unit – Lactation Consultants
Maternity Centre – Lactation Consultants