For the best possible start in life, the Public Health Agency of Canada supports and promotes breastfeeding as the unequalled way to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional nurturing of infants.
Additional resources and links are provided below.
Today, most women are breastfeeding their babies. Breast milk is the best food you can offer your baby. Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend that it should be the only food or drink for the first 6 months of life and after that breastfeeding should continue - with the gradual introduction of solid foods - for 2 years and more.
Breast milk is the best food for your baby to grow and develop. It is naturally and uniquely produced by each mother for her own baby. As your baby grows your milk will change to meet your baby's needs and is the easiest milk of all for your baby to digest. Breast milk has just the right amount of protein carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals, and, contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect against infections and disease - benefits that last a lifetime. Breastfeeding has many benefits for the mother too and nurtures a special relationship between mother and baby.
Babies who are breastfed should receive a Vitamin D Supplement . This will prevent vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to a bone disease called rickets. When your baby starts getting vitamin D from other foods, you can stop giving the supplement.
There are rarely reasons not to breastfeed. If you smoke, you can still breastfeed, but you should consider cutting back or quitting smoking altogether. You should also avoid drinking alcohol. If you are sick or taking prescription medication, talk to your doctor.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it may take time for you and your baby to learn to breastfeed. It can take up to six weeks to establish breastfeeding so continue to breastfeed - it is important for your baby. If you need some advice or support there are many groups and individuals available to help you, including:
They have experience with the problems you might have, and understand how you feel.
Whether or not you are breastfeeding, feeding a baby is an opportunity to bond. Mothers and fathers can make the most of the feeding experience by holding the baby close, talking softly and looking into the baby's eyes.
For the first six months breast milk is all the food and drink your baby needs for optimal growth and development. Exclusively breastfed babies don't need any other liquids (except their vitamin D supplements). If your doctor recommends you give water to an infant under six months, it should be boiled for at least 2 minutes. Babies should not be given herbal teas or other drinks.
By six months of age, although breast milk or formula is still your baby's primary food, it's time to begin adding solid foods. These foods help babies meet their growing nutritional needs. By about 6 months, most babies cannot get everything they need from breast milk alone.
There are many ways to introduce solid food. The first foods usually vary from culture to culture and from family to family. Start with foods that contain iron, which babies need for many different aspects of their development. It's common to start with a single grain, iron-fortified infant cereal such as rice or barley. Meat, poultry, cooked egg yolk and well cooked legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas) are also good sources of iron. Introduce new foods one at a time, waiting about 3 to 5 days before trying another. That way, if your baby develops a reaction, you'll have a better idea of what food might have caused it.
Healthy foods that your family eats are good to start with as long as they are plain, with no added salt, sugar, or spices. You can also use commercial baby foods, as long as you check the label to ensure there is no added salt or sugar. By the time your baby is one year old, her diet should contain a variety of foods from the different food groups. You can learn more about food groups from the Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide .
The Breastfeeding Friendly Logo was developed in collaboration with La Leche League Canada. It can be printed and posted in areas to indicate that breastfeeding is welcome and encouraged on the premises. To view the logo, simply click on it. To save the logo to your computer, right click the image and select "Save image as..."