The Secret to Breastfeeding Success: Getting the Support You Need


I’m going to let you in on a secret: breastfeeding isn’t something that comes naturally to most moms and babies. For many – myself included – it takes a lot of hard work to get a correct latch that doesn’t hurt mom or upset baby.

Given my own first experience with breastfeeding, I’m not surprised that only half of Canadian mothers are still doing it at six months – something recommended by both the Canadian Paediatric Society and World Health Organization. The first few weeks with a new baby are exciting, but also physically and mentally exhausting – not necessarily the best conditions to deal with potential breastfeeding frustrations. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t dream about giving up on it myself at times when my first son was born. While he was rapidly gaining weight and was content, I was silently suffering.

The first month of his life was a lonely, frustrating existence for me. We just couldn’t get our latching act together; I spent a lot of time teary, in pain, and ignoring friends’ requests for visits fearing them seeing me struggle with something that I thought I should have instinctually been able to do. I won’t get into all of the very personal details, but let’s just say there was cracking, thrush and engorgement; all common issues for many new mothers.

After a month of pain and tears, I started to daydream about how easy it would be to just switch to formula. But, knowing the benefits of breastfeeding for both my son and myself – including boosting antibodies, helping him fight off illnesses – I knew that I needed to search for help before I acted on my daydreams and actually bought that can of formula.

Thankfully for me, new mothers in Ottawa are extremely lucky to have many support options available to them. In addition to the advice that doctors and midwives can provide, Ottawa Public Health offers free breastfeeding support drop-in clinics across the city and runs the Ottawa Breastfeeding Buddies program, matching experienced mothers with new mothers to answer questions and provide support. In addition to this, La Leche League Canada regularly holds support meetings and has volunteer leaders available to answer questions and provide referral services.

I myself am a fairly private person and was recovering from an emergency caesarean section in cold, icy January when my oldest was born, so I opted for a private consultation with a lactation consultant. This angel spent the afternoon with me, helping with positioning, latching, treating wounds, setting me up with an electric pump and establishing a feeding plan to get us on track. While this was a much more costly option, I still consider it the best money I have ever spent – far less than I would have spent on a year’s worth of formula.

In the end, I was teary about breastfeeding once again a year later when my son weaned himself just days before his first birthday – something that wouldn’t have been possible had I not known about the support and services available to breastfeeding mothers in our community.

Breastfeeding support available to new mothers in Ottawa:

Andrea is a writer and communicator focusing on health communications. Currently, she is taking a break from work to spend time with her toddler, Aidan, while waiting for the arrival of her next son (due in September).

  • ashley

    great post. I nursed both my boys (until 13.5 mths and 22mths) – it was something VERY important to me. My oldest was in the NICU and didn’t latch until he was 11 days old…I was petrified he wouldn’t be able to nurse but he got the hang of it right away and nursed for over a year.

  • Lara

    I don’t think people talk enough about just how hard it to in the beginning. People need to realize all the great resources there are to help because it’s really not as obvious as people make it out to be!

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