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The Breastfeeding Committee for Canada’s hosts Baby-Friendly Initiative Symposium in Yellowknife

This week over 120 participants including experts, policymakers, health care providers, administrators, NGOs, community partners and infant feeding champions from across Canada gather in Yellowknife for the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada’s (BCC) Baby-Friendly Initiative National Symposium.

The theme of the symposium, Beyond the Ten Steps: Critical Connections for Transformative Change seeks to understand how practice and policy around infant feeding must be grounded in the principles of health equity and social justice.

This is necessary organizers say to address the systemic inequities that contribute to disparities in breastfeeding rates and other maternal-child health outcomes.

“This Symposium provides an opportunity to learn how to implement the Baby-Friendly Initiative in a way that acknowledges the context and environment in which families live and health facilities operate,” Pam O’Sullivan, co-chair of Breastfeeding Committee for Canada said. “Building connections across these complicated systems is vital to learn about innovative practices necessary to close the gap in maternal-child health.”

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The symposium will explore topics of food security, poverty, intimate partner violence, colonization, racism, and the impacts of the social determinants of health on work as individuals, communities and health systems.

As a national organization, the BCC seeks to support enabling environments for breastfeeding in Canada. Breastfeeding and infant feeding support that is relationship-based and context-driven encourages us to move past linear approaches of cause and effect, O’Sullivan says.

It demands that we explore the social, political, economic and physical environment that informs the lives of families in communities and that can enable or jeopardize the right to decide, O’Sullivan added.

“Indigenous women have authority over practices of birthing and breastfeeding,” Dr. Charlotte Loppie, Professor, School of Public Health and Social Policy, from the University of Victoria said. “Self-determination is about autonomy and control authority to make decisions over things which influence our lives which includes birthing and parenting.”

There are currently 22 hospitals and 116 community health centers in Canada that have been designated as Baby-Friendly (2018). Inuvik Regional Hospital became designated in December 2018 and is the most northern hospital in Canada to receive this acknowledgment.

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In Canada, the BFI is overseen by the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (BCC), the national authority for the BFI appointed by Health Canada/Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Breastfeeding Committee for Canada’s (BCC) Baby-Friendly Initiative National Symposium is being held at the Chateau Nova, in Yellowknife from October 1 – 3, 2019.

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