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The Breastfeeding Journey: Personal Experiences of Public Health Nurses and Clients

Public Health Nurse with a breastfeeding parent

Supporting new parents in breastfeeding or chestfeeding is an important part of the work of Public Health Nurses (PHNs) who serve as part of the Early Years team. Operating in all zones and communities across the province, PHNs work with people in their homes to offer support and guidance on all aspects of having a baby, including infant feeding.

Early Years PHN services can actually start while a client is pregnant, offering education and guidance to help families make informed decisions about how they want to feed their babies. Once babies are born, PHNs provide direct feeding support and work collaboratively with families to meet their goals and navigate common breastfeeding and infant feeding challenges.

In honour of National Breastfeeding Week, we asked Early Years PHNs and clients to share their experiences with this program’s breastfeeding support.

The Client Experience

When we started our breastfeeding journey, it was a little harder than I thought it would be. Our nurse was able to address my concerns and gave us some great tips on how to adjust and make breastfeeding a more enjoyable bonding experience for both my newborn and me.

The biggest piece of advice I could give to parents who are just starting their breastfeeding journey is not to be afraid to ask for help. Becoming new parents can be both beautiful and challenging. We are so fortunate to have the support of Public Health as a foundational breastfeeding resource. They are there to help! 

- Jacqueline Gogan, Public Health Early Years Client

My baby Nuria was born with a tongue tie and lip tie, and the PHN supported me to navigate the process of fixing this issue by speaking to me about the available resources, as well as how to continue to breastfeed my daughter in the meantime, as my ultimate goal was to breastfeed exclusively.

I felt supported from the beginning when the nurse reached out for the initial in-house consult. From there, I felt as though the PHN was the key resource and contact person to assist my daughter and me for everything breastfeeding related.

- Emma Flynn, Public Health Early Years Client

The Public Health Nurse Experience

I enjoy working closely with families as each breastfeeding journey is unique. I would describe the support I provide as holistic, and family centered. We support clients in their own homes and their own breastfeeding space. It gives you a really good picture of their breastfeeding journey.

I love the “a-ha” moments, when they are able to overcome a challenge and you watch their body relax and put their mind at ease.

- Michelle Berry, Early Years PHN

As PHNs, we provide breastfeeding education both prenatally (during pregnancy) and after the baby is born. We also provide emotional support and reassurance as new parents learn how to breastfeed. While breastfeeding is instinctual, it is also very much a learned experience for new moms and for babies. We do breastfeeding assessments that includes observing feedings, following weight gains if there are ongoing feeding issues, assisting with issues that may arise, and offer referrals to other health care providers as needed.

I remember working closely with a mom who had a very negative and unsuccessful experience breastfeeding her first child and was very stressed about trying to do so with her second baby. Through education, reassurance and gentle assistance, this mom was able to have a very positive second time breastfeeding experience, and actually went on to be a support for other new moms.

- Shelley Keefe, Early Years PHN

Our support is customized specifically for each family and their identified feeding goals. Support may be hands-on, with positioning and latch. It may also be related to nipple care and assessment of baby and mom’s attachment while feeding. It may be helping a mother to identify how she is feeling regarding feeding her infant and what she can manage, given all the demands of a new infant at home.

The clients are incredible and continue to amaze me day after day! They are resilient in the face of challenges like housing and food insecurity. They genuinely want the best for their family and are willing to work so hard to attain their goals.

- Heather Doucette, Early Years PHN

Find Public Health Services Near You

Public Health offers home visiting services to provide breastfeeding and infant feeding support in your home and community. Depending on where you live, Public Health may offer drop-in sessions where families can receive support and guidance on infant feeding and more. We also collaborate with many community organizations and others in the health care system to ensure clients are receiving the right service for their needs.

Learn more about Public Health’s Early Years services in your community. You can self-refer to Public Health, or be referred by a family doctor, nurse practitioner or community organization, like a Family Resource Centre.

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