Posted by: Kimberley M. | February 22, 2017

Visit to Waswanipi

As breastfeeding consultant for Public Health one of my roles is to visit communities to offer support and training to the health care workers. This past week I made my first visit to Waswanipi. I went along with the nurse counselor from Public Health. We were very warmly received. It was enjoyable to hear from the workers what they saw as the strengths of their community, and how we could help them to deal with some of the challenges to supporting families in the perinatal period, and for me particularly, to hear about how they support families on their breastfeeding journey.

During the course of this visit, I got to visit the Cultural Centre and have some traditional food for lunch. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we enjoyed walking around the community and getting a feel for the people and the nice view of the tiipii at the Cultural Centre.

At the end of the training day, the workers seemed more confident in their knowledge about prenatal care, birth and breastfeeding and will certainly be passing along their new information to the families in Waswanipi.

During the training, we watched a number of videos, including one that has been shared on Cree Breastfeeding before, but that is worth sharing again. The Creator’s Gift to Mothers is a lovely video that can be watched by pregnant women, by grandmothers, partners and anyone in the community that wants to know a little bit more about the importance of breastfeeding. Enjoy!

Posted by: Kimberley M. | February 10, 2017

Breastfeeding and Food Security

Today’s blog is about how breastfeeding contributes to food security.

Some of you may have heard that the Cree Nation Government adopted the Framework for Action to Improve Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee. On Tuesday, January 24th, of this year, Dr. Darlene Kitty and Bella Petawabano gave a presentation on Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee at the Cree Nation Government Council Board meeting. Their presentation was broadcast live on regional radio and livestream.  Links to the broadcast are included at the end of this post.

This is a call to action for all communities. Breastfeeding plays a key role in ensuring that the youngest members of the community have food security. Breastmilk is baby’s first food.

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding  Action :

Food security means having enough food to maintain a healthy and productive life today–and in the future. Communities enjoy food security when all individuals in all households have access to food–adequate in quantity and quality, affordable, acceptable, appropriate and readily available from local sources on a continuing basis.1

If we look at this closely, we see that breastfeeding fulfills all the requirements.

Having enough food to maintain a healthy and productive life today:

Breastfeeding contains all the essential nutrients to support the development of the baby for the first six months of life. Not only that but it contains immune factors that protect the baby against common illnesses and chronic diseases, giving the baby protection throughout his lifespan.

Adequate in quantity & quality :

With support and information most women can produce plenty of milk for their baby. Some women provide enough for twins or more! Human milk is a high quality food even when the mother’s diet is less than ideal.

Affordable :

Breastfeeding costs very little while artificial infant milk (formula) can represent a significant portion of a family’s income. Breastfeeding allows the family to use more resources for nutritious foods for the whole family. Feeding the mother also feeds the baby.

Acceptable :

Breastfeeding is part of Cree culture and an important contribution to Myuupmasitsiun.

“Our children were always told to breast feed their children even when milk became available at the store.  “When God gave you a baby,” my father used to tell them, “He also gave you the equipment to feed that baby, so use what God gave you.”  And they followed his teachings.” (Mary George: Whapmagostui: 2012)

Readily available from local sources on a continuing basis.

The baby’s own mother is the most local of sources. As long as the baby demands, more milk will be produced. Recommendations are to continue breastfeeding for two years or more, after the introduction of complimentary foods at around six months.  “Cree Elders recommend that women breastfeed their babies as long as they can! They say that breastfeeding is Love.”2

A few more thoughts on food security and breastfeeding:

As well as security for the baby, breastfeeding contributes to a mother’s food security by lowering her risk of nutritionally demanding diseases, such as osteoporosis and anemia.

Communities benefit when everybody experiences food security. When a community is well fed, resources can be used for needs other than food. Community programs to reduce hunger and provide access to nutritious foods won’t need to use their funds on artificial infant milk (formula) when babies enrolled in the program are breastfed.

It is important to remember that breastfeeding is more than just a way to get nutritious and disease-fighting food into the baby.  A breastfed baby enjoys not only food security, but also a wonderful feeling of security through that feeding. Babies thrive on human touch, and feeding the food nature intended also provides the skin-to-skin contact so necessary to the psychological development of a young baby.

It is up to all of us to make sure that the youngest members of our community receive the truest security.


Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee information page

Cree Nation Government Livestream page

James Bay Cree Communications Society (JBCCS) streaming radio


  1. Activity Sheet 10: Breastfeeding and Food Security. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from
  2. Gauthier, Dany. Breastfeeding Index Cards. Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from
Posted by: Kimberley M. | January 25, 2017

Breastfeeding through my second pregnancy

When my first child was 21 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. This was news that I greeted with pleasure. I was still breastfeeding my son and was wondering how it would go. Would I nurse through the pregnancy or would I wean him? I knew quite a few breastfeeding mothers at that point and some continued to nurse through their pregnancy while others chose to wean. How would I decide which was right for us?

My son was a very active, busy toddler and I found that breastfeeding soothed so many small ills, that I didn’t really want to stop. I knew that by stopping completely, I would have to work really hard to replace everything that breastfeeding meant to him. I remember going to a support group when he was just over a year and the support group leader listed all the things breastfeeding could be: food, drink, comfort, warmth, security, fun and games, routine, immune protection, medicine and so on. I knew it was helpful for soothing hurt feelings and when he got sick, all he wanted to drink was my milk. I knew that if I was to wean him, I would have to work harder at mothering him. For me the right decision was to continue breastfeeding.

I had a few normal worries. How would breastfeeding affect the developing fetus? I did a little bit of reading and found out that breastfeeding would not deprive the new baby of any nutrients. I would have to take even more care of myself and make sure I was eating well and enough and getting enough rest.

My body was changing. In the first trimester my nipples were more sensitive, so I decided to cut down on the length of time of our nursing sessions and also not offer the breast, but wait until he asked. However, sitting or lying down to nurse him when I was tired was a good way of looking after an active toddler and dealing with my own normal fatigue from pregnancy.

By the second trimester, I was starting to feel more energetic and wasn’t suffering from nipple sensitivity quite as much. It wasn’t always easy or comfortable to continue nursing, and sometimes I would feel restless while nursing. In my case the numerous benefits of continuing to breastfeed far outweighed the drawbacks.

By the third trimester, the volume of milk available for my toddler was much less. The milk had switched to colostrum in preparation for my new baby. My son became much less interested in nursing at that point and I thought he might wean altogether. I was still nursing him to sleep and once during the day. I was happy to know that breastfeeding would not send me into early labour. Only women who have risk factors for early labour may be told to wean. My health care provider told me that breastfeeding is far less likely than sex to start labour, so unless I was told to stop having sex, well I could continue to feed my toddler. By the end of my pregnancy I was hoping that the stimulation of the nipples might actually start to work and get labour going! That didn’t end up being the case, but I did have a smooth birth and gave birth to a lovely 4.5kg baby girl. She certainly wasn’t lacking in any nutrients! My nursing toddler had a baby sister and a new chapter of my motherhood began.

Posted by: Kimberley M. | January 17, 2017

Smoking and breastfeeding

January is No Smoking Month. It seems like a good time to talk about smoking and breastfeeding.

Most people are now well aware of the health risks of smoking cigarettes and many pregnant and breastfeeding women are motivated to quit or to cut down. This is clearly the best choice for the health of both mother and baby.

And what if you can’t stop? You should breastfeed!

It’s better to smoke and breastfeed than to smoke and formula feed. Breastfeeding will protect against some of the harmful effects of smoking by providing some immune factors that protect against respiratory illness. If you are smoking and breastfeeding, try to cut down or quit. Smoking can make your baby fussy. Heavy smoking can decrease the amount of milk you make.  Here are a few suggestions to help you reduce the risk of smoking on your baby:

Breastfeed first, before smoking, so there will be less nicotine in your milk when nursing. Wait as long as you can between smoking and nursing. It takes 95 minutes for half the nicotine to be eliminated from your body.

Avoid smoking in the same room as your baby or in the car with your baby. It’s better to smoke outside, away from your baby and other children. Don’t let other people smoke near your baby. If possible, wear a jacket while smoking and take it off and wash your hands before holding your baby.

Less smoking in your household will be good for your whole family’s health, not just your baby’s. Stop or cut down if you can, and remember that even if you can’t, breastfeeding still provides significant health benefits for both you and your baby.

Kimberley M.

Posted by: Kimberley M. | January 9, 2017

New Year, new wishes

Following on the tradition created by the original author of this blog, I, Kimberley, am sharing with you my New Year’s wish for breastfeeding families in Eeyou Itschee. My wish is that more babies will be breastfed at birth and that exclusive breastfeeding will increase in the community.

What does exclusive breastfeeding mean and why is it important? Exclusive breastfeeding means only mother’s milk and no other liquids or solid foods, not even water. Vitamins, minerals, and medication may be given. The recommendation from the World Health Organization is for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

This is important right from birth, since in the first few days after birth, giving water or glucose water increases the risk of jaundice for the baby. Also, if you give your baby water or other liquids in those first days, they may not be interested in breastfeeding when you try to feed them because the tiny stomach is filled with something else.  This means they may not get as much of the colostrum, which is so helpful for disease prevention. Nursing less often in those early days can also negatively influence your milk supply.

Another important reason to continue to exclusively breastfeed is that your baby’s immature digestive system is not ready to transform solid foods or other milks or liquids. Every time you breastfeed your baby you are giving them healthy bacteria which helps their gut to mature. Even one bottle of commercial infant formula will change the type of bacteria in your baby’s intestines and it will take a couple of weeks of exclusive breastfeeding to get back to the right balance of good bacteria in baby’s system. Studies are starting to show how important these good bacteria are, including that they play an important role in preventing auto-immune diseases such as diabetes. This is one way that breastmilk works toward disease prevention.

Breastmilk is easy to digest and contains all the nutrition your baby needs. It has the right balance of calories, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and so on. Your baby will receive more iron from your milk than from solid foods. Breastfed babies don’t need additional water. Giving anything other than mother’s milk can lead to missed feedings which can cause a reduction in milk supply and make it harder for the mother to continue breastfeeding. Missed feedings also means fewer antibodies to protect your baby as well as all the other immune factors that are involved in helping your baby reach optimal health.

For the mother, continuing exclusive breastfeeding often contributes to more weight loss, a longer time before her periods return and makes it easier to maintain a milk supply so that she can breastfeed her baby for two years or more, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Breastfeeding is a normal and healthy practice. It is part of Miyupimaatisiiun. May there be many exclusively breastfed babies in 2017!

Kimberley M.


Posted by: Kimberley M. | December 20, 2016

Holiday Breastfeeding

Things can get hectic around the holidays, especially for breastfeeding mothers.  There are many additional demands on the brand new mother and sometimes breastfeeding gets forgotten in the rush of trying to get everything done. Not everyone can bring their baby with them to every outing or event. If mothers and babies are separated at this time, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain breastfeeding when they are reunited. The first few weeks are the most crucial for establishing a good milk supply, so skipping feedings at this time can have a big effect later on.  Here are a few tips that can help make these separations go more smoothly and help avoid a dip in milk supply or an unintended weaning.

Mothers should take breaks to express milk regularly when they are away from their baby. This is important so that she will avoid engorgement, and mastitis and also to keep up her milk supply.  Manual breast pumps are easy to carry, discrete and allow mothers to save the milk to feed to their babies at a later date. If that isn’t possible, the most portable of all breast pumps is the mother’s own hands! Manual expression can be easy, too and will let the mother ease off the discomfort from overly full breasts.

Once the mother and baby are back together again, the mother should plan to spend some time with her baby so she can offer the breast often, in order to rebuild the milk supply and rediscover the connection of breastfeeding.

Dany G., the previous author of this blog, wrote some other really good posts about Holiday Breastfeeding.

Christmas time is a fun but risky time for breastfeeding mothers!

Enjoy reading her words as well.

A safe and happy holiday to everyone!

Kimberley M.

Posted by: Kimberley M. | December 14, 2016

Breastfeeding my first baby

I learned more about breastfeeding my firstborn by watching him than any book could have taught me.

My son was born in November. I didn’t have a lot of friends who had babies and my own mother was working in another country far from me when he was born. There wasn’t Internet, but there were books to guide me.  Before he was born I went to my local library and took out as many books as I could about breastfeeding and birth.  I thought I was prepared, but babies are not like books!

He was born healthy and strong and cried a long time. He was not easy to settle so our first breastfeeding was a couple of hours after birth. I should have known right away that I had what I would learn was called a “high-needs” baby. I had to hold and carry him a lot in the first weeks to help him be comfortable. He slept very little for a newborn, so of course I didn’t sleep much either.  What was really helpful was having him sleep close to me, in the same room. Over those first few weeks I had some ordinary struggles with latching my baby, some sore nipples, engorgement and one mild case of mastitis. I never considered anything but breastfeeding, and followed my baby’s cues for feeding him.  It wasn’t easy and I know I cried a few times wondering how one little baby could be so much work! Once Christmas came I was very happy I had persisted, because breastfeeding was finally comfortable. I enjoyed being able to take my baby with me everywhere.

I remember going to see my midwife when he was about 6 weeks old, so just before Christmas, and being thrilled that he had gained really well and that he weighed 13 pounds already! I didn’t know then that exclusively breastfed babies gain more quickly than artificially fed babies in the first months. All I knew, as a young mother, was how proud I was that he had grown so well on only my milk. Another thing I really enjoyed about having a small baby at Christmas time was that even though family and friends could hold and play with my baby, he had to come back to me for feeding, so we got some good connecting and bonding time.  Even though now I am an IBLCE certified lactation consultant, I know that a lot of what I learned about breastfeeding came from that first connection with my first baby.  It’s worth persisting through the first weeks. And though I didn’t know it with my first, there are ways to get good information and help to avoid some of the more common problems.

I would love to hear from some of you, sharing your experience with breastfeeding.

Kimberley M.

Posted by: Kimberley M. | December 7, 2016

New author for

Some of you may have noticed that the blog has a few changes. We are coming to the end of a calendar year, and with that we are also celebrating new beginnings for the blog.

The blog has changed hands. Dany Gauthier was responsible for starting the blog and keeping it active from 2008 to 2015. She has moved to a new position with the Department of Program Development and Support of the CHB.

I am the new Planning, Programming and Research Officer responsible for breastfeeding. I would like to tell you a little bit about myself and how I came to hold this position. My name is Kimberley MacKenzie and I am the mother of 3 adult children, all of whom I breastfed. When they were small, I was a volunteer support mother with La Leche League Canada and also worked in the Accreditation Department to train other volunteers. As my children grew, I wanted to learn more about the scientific and technical side of breastfeeding in order to better help mothers and babies. I joined a Lactation Consultant course and studied with my mentors in the field of lactation. I became certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 2008 and have been working clinically ever since. Because breastfeeding is part of a continuum of conception, pregnancy, birth and child rearing, I decided to work supporting women in pregnancy and labor in different hospitals in the Montreal area.  I also worked as an aide to midwives at the Pointe-Claire Lac St. Louis birthing centre. This gave me a unique opportunity to perfect my skills with newborns, to teach prenatal classes to expecting parents and to provide continuing education in terms of training to the midwives. My aim for this blog is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in Eeyou Itschee, by sharing evidence-based, culturally appropriate, information as well as stories shared by the community. I plan to include topics that will interest mothers, family members and health care providers. Since it takes a village to raise a child, I welcome photos, links, article submissions from individuals or groups who share similar goals. Please contact me if you would like to submit something or have a topic you would like to see covered.

Meegwetch, Thank You, Merci


Posted by: Kimberley M. | October 4, 2015

Breastfeeding Week 2015 – October 5 to 9, 2015

Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s make it work!

 Most mothers think that they need to stop breastfeeding when they return to work. Actually, the older your baby is, the easier it is to continue breastfeeding while working. If you need to return to work before your baby is 5 to 6 months, you will need to express your breastmilk to keep up your milk supply. If you go back to work later, your breasts will adapt to the situation and, after an initial period of slight engorgement, your breasts will follow the new routine and will produce milk only when your baby breastfeeds. In Canada, there is a parental leave of 1 year which facilitates a longer breastfeeding period.

It is quite easy to breastfeed while working as your body and your child adapt to changes. The difficulties usually reside in the environment. For example, is it possible for your employer to give you an extended break to go breastfeed your baby or to pump your milk? Is there a private area that you can use or is the daycare close enough to your workplace to go there and come back during break time?

In Eeyou Itschee, there is rarely more than 2 km distance from one end of the community to the other. Daycares are close to the center of town and if you have a job in the community, it is quite feasible to go breastfeed during breaks and at lunchtime. It is actually relaxing to spend quiet time with your child.

My experience when I moved in Mistissini was quite positive and a little different. I came to Mistissini to work for the Public Health Department of the CHB and as my husband needed to finish a contract in Montreal, I came alone with my 2 years old daughter. The daycare was full so I had to take her to work with me and I breastfed her many times in my office cubicle. I used to put her to sleep for her nap on my thick woolen parka. I’d slide her under my desk near me while I was working. This went on until they had a place for her at daycare. She was drinking and eating on her own so she didn’t need to be breastfed regularly. She asked for her juju when I was with her but drank water while at daycare. I had chosen for breastmilk to be the only milk she received, but this is a personal choice. There are many other options.

The experience of a co-worker of mine was also very similar. She had a 9 months old baby and was able to adjust her working schedule around her baby’s needs; bringing him to the daycare early, coming to work and going back to breastfeed him in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon. He breastfeed as he had before in the evening and whenever they were together.

With support from family, friends, the employers and the community, it is possible to breastfeed and work! Try it and you will see!

Posted by: Kimberley M. | August 20, 2015

Ever wonder why babies don’t sleep through the night?


The Sleep Cycle

Breastfeeding is a “gut feeling” thing…It’s something you know by instinct and not something you can calculate, or think through. Some say, you need to use your right brain that regulates emotions and not your left one, the one that analyses. Breastfeeding is something you feel, it is not a logical thing. You cannot control when your baby will wake up, how hungry he will be and how long he will breastfeed. In fact, once you have a baby, there is no way you can ever control anything again… No, this is only a joke…Well there is a little truth to it.

In the beginning, babies’ respond to stimuli with reflexes. They cannot control their movements and their bodily functions. They react to things with their primitive brain, the first brain fully developed at the birth of a human being. The other parts of our brain, the emotional and the logical ones, develop progressively as the child grows.

One thing present at birth is the sleep cycle. Babies stay awake and sleep in answer to their own cycle. For example, a baby can only be awake very short periods at a time when they are a few days old. They do not have the neurological maturity to stay up for long periods. It is also mainly brain immaturity that makes some babies cry more than others. It is for the same reason that babies’ arms and legs can shake a little sometimes. Babies are not a “finished” product when they are born. They will be developing their brain functions as they grow.

The sleep cycle regulates a baby’s feeding schedule. Babies are diurnal mammals. This means that they live during the day and sleep at night. Cats and bats are nocturnal; they live at night and sleep in the day. You probably think this is wrong as babies keep us pretty active during the night, right? This is because of their immature sleep cycle. They will need a little time and help to get their nighttime sleep on track. The way we sleep is also linked to social and cultural issues.

Here is an example of the sleep cycle of a baby up to 1 month old:



Babies can stay awake for only a few minutes and their deep sleep also lasts for a short period. The longest sleep period is in the light sleep. Light sleep is when you dream. If you look closely, you will see their eyes moving behind their eyelids. They also make small movements and sounds. Their breathing is very irregular in light sleep mode. During this phase of the sleep cycle, they wake up easily if a loud noise occurs or if there is some type of disturbance or change in their environment (like taking them from your warm arms to put them in a bed many degrees colder). In deep sleep, you can put them down and they will not wake up but the deep sleep does not last very long, at the most 15 minutes in 1 cycle. A full sleep cycle with the awake period is about 1 hour to 1 hour and a half in a very young baby.

The natural feeding behavior for babies is ‘grouped feedings’ with one period of longer sleep per 24 hours. Grouped feedings mean that a baby will feed between 5 to 10 times in a 1 to 2 hours period and then fall asleep for up to 5-6 hours. If left to follow their natural sleep pattern, there will always be a longer period of sleep. We all wish babies would do this longer stretch during the night but it does not always happen that way. Let me explain why.

The wheel above shows babies fall asleep during a transitional phase (sleepiness) and then go through periods of light sleep, deep sleep and light sleep again. When they reach the reverse transition phase, the “awakening”, this is when they transition to being completely up. This is a good time to help them awaken gently by positioning them at the breast. If a baby is not gaining much weight or if he has breastfeeding difficulties or specific health concerns such as jaundice (yellow tinted skin in the early days), it is important to observe for the awakening phase, to pick up the baby and get him ready to breastfeed. At night time and if the babies health is fine and he is growing well, you can wait and see if he wakes completely before putting him at the breast.  If he has no specific needs, he might awaken slightly and fall back in a light sleep mode. This is how babies sleep longer stretches. It is not because they are good or quiet babies. It is not because they get formula or cereals  to ‘help’ them sleep.  The waking up and sleepiness is determined by the maturity of their brain and it changes as they grow.

True or false

“We need to wake our babies up according to specific and fixed intervals like “every 2 to 3 hours”.

False. Babies need to be fed “on demand”. If your baby is left to go through his sleep cycle without being woken up at specific intervals, he will eventually do his long stretch of sleep. If you wake him up every X hours with no respect of his natural sleep cycle, he might be in a deep sleep when you wake him up and he will not breastfeed well. Once put back down, he will still wake up according to his schedule but you will think he is crying for nothing as he just fed awhile ago.

“Mothers of breastfed babies sleep less then mothers of bottle-fed babies.”

False. What makes people say this is the fact that you can have someone else give a bottle to your baby but you cannot have someone else breastfeed your baby. In fact, when you breastfeed and follow your baby’s sleep cycle, you will be able to sleep well as a baby has a longer stretch of sleep in his sleep cycle. What is difficult on a mother’s sleep is to wake up the baby at every 2 or 3 hours interval.

“Babies are less likely to fall asleep on their own if they are breastfed.”

False. By helping a baby follow his own sleep cycle you teach him how to fall asleep and wake up naturally. Most breastfed babies fall asleep at the breast. This is much easier on the mother and on the baby.

Dany G.  🙂

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