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Breastfeeding benefits high risk population in Saskatchewan

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"Born Healthy, Raised Healthy", an innovative nutrition and breastfeeding project of the Battlefords Saskatchewan Health District for women and teens grew out of the belief that, adequate maternal nutrition and breastfeeding are the least costly and most timely interventions in creating healthier populations. Funded by Health Canada's Health Transition Fund, the project, designed to address health inequities by increasing food security and restoring a breastfeeding culture, has some very interesting results. Lead researchers, Jean Burry and Terry Lynn Cann report that in a population where 89 per cent of the clients were on social assistance, and 86 per cent of mothers were single and 41 per cent aged 15 to 19:

  • providing information for informed decision to breastfeed, and breastfeeding support resulted in markedly increased initiation/duration rates,
  • maternal nutrition support and breastfeeding positively affected health outcomes,
  • breastfeeding initiation/duration rates appear linked to reduced hospital admission and interventions such as pharmacare.

Of the 67 high risk mother and baby pairs 86.6 per cent initiated breastfeeding (53.7 per cent exclusively-hospital supplementation was still practised). At six months almost 70 per cent continued to breastfeed, however the exclusive breastfeeding rate dropped significantly at 4 and 5 months. This was attributed to the national policy of initiating solids at 4 to 6 months despite BFI recommendations of at about six months. These figures show a marked improvement and are considerably higher than rates of 69 per cent initiation reported in 1994-95.

Hospital admissions in the breastfeeding population over the 6 month audit show that only 3.6 per cent of those breastfed were readmitted to hospital whereas nearly 80 per cent of those artificially fed were admitted for various infectious diseases, primarily lower respiratory and gastrointestinal conditions. Partial breastfeeding had some benefit with an admission rate of 16.7 per cent.

B.U.H. Pediatric Admissions Audit chart
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