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Breastfeeding is an important public health indicator because it can greatly affect health outcomes for the child later in life. Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. All mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond1.​  

In 2012, 89% of Canadian mothers breastfed or tried to breastfeed their last child2.

NWHU exclusive breastfeeding rates are statistically higher than in Ontario (70.4% vs. 62.6% in 2015). Rates of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge have been lowest amongst younger mothers.  Between 2013 and 2015, the proportion of mothers under 20 who were exclusively breastfeeding at discharge was 47.9%, statistically lower than all other age groups.  The second lowest rate was in those aged 20-24, of which 63.0% were exclusively breastfeeding.​

Figure 1: Breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge, 2015

Source:  BORN Ontario.  Date Extracted: February 15, 2016 Note: data excludes First Nations communities

Figure 2: Exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge by maternal age group, NWHU, 2013-2015

exclusive breastfeeding rates by maternal age

Source:  BORN Ontario.  Date Extracted: February 15, 2016 Note: data excludes First Nations communities

Kenora is the municipality with the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the NWHU area.  Between 2013 and 2015, 77.8% of mothers in Kenora were exclusively breastfeeding at hospital discharge.  The lowest rate was in Sioux Lookout, where it was 61.6%.

Figure 3:  Exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge by municipality, NWHU,
2013-2015exclusive breastfeeding at hospital dischargeSource:  BORN Ontario.  Date Extracted: February 15, 2016Note: “All NWHU municipalities” data does not include First Nations communities

The NWHU has been following up with mothers in the region at 48 hours, 7 weeks and 6 months to ask about how they are feeding their infants.  This is being done through the Infant Feeding Survey, an instrument developed at the NWHU.

In 2015, 139 mothers in the area completed the 6-month follow-up survey.  Of these mothers, 63.4% reported that they were breastfeeding (either exclusively or in combination with formula).  51.8% were breastfeeding exclusively, 36.7% were using only infant formula and 11.5% were using a combination of breast milk and infant formula.

Figure 4:  Infant feeding method upon 6-month follow-up in the NWHU, 2015 (n=139)

Source:  NWHU Infant Feeding Survey, 2015.  Date Extracted: February 15, 2016​


1 World Health Organization. (2016). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from

2 Statistics Canada. (2015). Breastfeeding trends in Canada. Retrieved from​​