Breastfeeding matters: Supporting breastfeeding in populations with lower breastfeeding rates

Breastfeeding has been recognized as a key health promotion strategy, affecting both short and long-term health through nutrition, immunology, social and emotional health, cognitive development and food security, and contributes to the well-being of society (Horta, 2013; Ip, 2009). It has been cited at a factor in the promotion of healthy weights (Balaban, 2004).

In Ontario 91.8% of women initiate breastfeeding, only 61.5% are breastfeeding exclusively at discharge and only 33.3 % breastfeed exclusively for 6 months or longer (Statistics Canada, 2013) (BORN Ontario, 2014). In particular there are populations with lower rates of breastfeeding relating to initiation, exclusivity and duration (Best Start Resource Centre, 2014).

In 2014, the Best Start Resource Centre undertook four research validation strategies to gather and confirm information on populations with lower rates of breastfeeding in Ontario.

The strategies were:  

  1. A literature review of the Canadian Literature.
  2. Data from the Better Outcomes Registry and Network (BORN) Ontario.
  3. Key Informant Interviews.
  4.  A needs assessment of service providers.

The results of this process are compiled in a report that highlights information about trends in Ontario, barriers, effective and promising strategies, and recommendations to reach populations with lower rates of breastfeeding: Populations with Lower Rates of Breastfeeding: A Summary of Findings (Best Start Resource Centre, 2014).

Four fact sheets are also available to explore some of the issues in more detail:

  1. Notable Trends within the Province
  2. Breastfeeding and Socioeconomic Status
  3. Breastfeeding among Young Single Mothers
  4. Breastfeeding Peer Support: An Effective Strategy to Reach and Support Populations with Lower Rates of Breastfeeding (Best Start Resourse Centre, 2014b)

In addition to this research to reach and support populations with lower rates of breastfeeding in Ontario, the Best Start Resource Centre awarded grants to 15 community organizations for one-year projects in March 2014. More information about these initial projects is available at

Until October 20, 2014, the Best Start Resource Centre is accepting proposals for grants for community breastfeeding projects. Again, the goal of the grants is to help organizations reach and support populations with lower rates of breastfeeding in Ontario. Application forms and information are available at

Support for organizations planning to write a proposal is available through a number of webinars, teleconferences and resources.

One of the key resources to assist service providers and women alike is the Bilingual Online Ontario Breastfeeding Services directory at This searchable directory will help women connect with available, local breastfeeding services and guide service providers as they seek to provide women with support.  An identification of gaps in services will guide future plans and endeavours at local levels and with the support from the Best Start Resource Centre.


Balaban, G. &. (2004). Protective effect of breastfeeding against childhood obesity. Pediatrics, 80(1), 7-16.

Best Start Resource Centre. (2014). Populations with lower rates of breastfeeding: A summary of findings. Toronto: Best Start Resrouce Centre.

Best Start Resourse Centre. (2014b). Breastfeeding in Ontario: Fact Sheets. Toronto: Best Start Resource Centre.

BORN Ontario. (2014). Data for 2012/2013. Ottawa: BORN Ontario.

Horta, B. &. (2013). Evidence of the long-term effects of breastfeeding: Systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Geneva SW: World Health Organization.

Ip, S. C. (2009). A summary of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's evidence report on breastfeeding in developed countries. Breastfeeding Medicine, 15-16.

Statistics Canada. (2013). Breastfeeding Trends in Canada. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.