Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

The question: I'm about to have my first child. I really feel strongly about not breastfeeding, but my friends tell me I'm crazy not to. What should I do?

The answer: Your friends are right to encourage you to consider nourishing your newborn with breast milk. In Canada, the majority of new mothers choose to breastfeed their newborns – and with good cause. The advantages of breastfeeding have been well established and include benefits for both the infant and the mother.

The following are some of my favourite reasons to consider breast milk for your baby:

Story continues below advertisement

  • 1. Antibodies in breast milk protect your baby from infection. These germ-busters are not present in formula.
  • 2. Breastfed babies have much lower rates of obesity later in life.
  • 3. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • 4. Breastfed children also have lower rates of diabetes, asthma and Crohn’s disease. All of these conditions pose significant and chronic health challenges.
  • 5. Mothers who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • 6. No bottles to clean, water to boil and – best of all – it’s free!

There are only a very small number of medical reasons for a mother to avoid breastfeeding. These include severe maternal health problems like HIV, tuberculosis and the need for chemotherapy.

It is worth acknowledging that breastfeeding doesn't work out for everybody. There are some mothers who struggle to produce enough milk, and there are infants who don't readily latch to the breast (these issues often coexist together).

Timely intervention by an experienced physician, nurse or lactation consultant can usually overcome these challenges, but success is not guaranteed. Similarly, some women find it difficult to continue to breastfeed when they return to work. Pumping and storing breast milk is one possible solution, but it may not be for everyone.

I strongly encourage even hesitant new mothers to breastfeed soon after delivery and for the duration of their hospital stay. Even a few days of mother's milk will confer health benefits to the newborn. Many moms also discover that breastfeeding is easier and more satisfying than they ever imagined.

If your breastfed baby is struggling to feed or gain weight, don't hesitate to seek support as soon as possible. Such problems occur commonly even under the best of circumstances and are usually correctable with professional help.

Whether you breastfeed for days, weeks or months, the choice is ultimately yours. Only you will know what works best for you and your baby.

If long-term breastfeeding doesn't work for you, so be it – your friends should respect your decision. Just don't knock it till you've tried it.

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Michael Dickinson is the head of pediatrics and chief of staff at the Miramichi Regional Hospital in New Brunswick. He's a staunch advocate for children's health in Atlantic Canada through his involvement with the Canadian Paediatric Society.

Click here to submit your questions. Our Health Experts will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies