Wider array of parental benefits still leave out too many

It’s good news that Canada’s parental leave policies are finally becoming more family-friendly. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of a flexible parental leave of up to 18 months (including 15 weeks of maternity leave) is all about offering parents more choice regarding care for their infants.

The federal Employment Insurance program is not increasing EI benefits, but parents can spread their current benefits  over 18 months. Moreover, the EI waiting period will be reduced to one week from two weeks starting next year. And now, Labour Minister Mary Ann Mihychuk has expressed interest in an exclusive paternity leave with benefits for fathers.

Choices are what employed parents with babies and young children need. We know that having a choice can lead to change. For example, Statistics Canada data show that when Ottawa extended the parental leave/ benefit to 12 months in 2001, there was a significant decrease in the number of infants who were in a variety of child-care services. In 1995, 36 per cent of Canadian infants were in such services, but by 2007, after the introduction of the one-year leave, the figure was down to 15 per cent.

Sadly, the dark side of Trudeau’s offer of more choice is that many employed parents in this rich land remain choice-poor. Many parents, including Indigenous mothers, will not be able to take advantage of maternity benefits, never mind the new, extended, flexible leave, because they do not meet the EI eligibility criteria.

Judith Martin is an adjunct professor in sociology at the U of S.

Our EI maternity and parental benefits remain problematic because:

a) Many low income parents work in non-standard, part-time, seasonal or term-contract situations, where layoffs are common. These parents often do not acquire the minimum 600 hours of work needed to qualify for maternity /parental benefits;

b) A 2007 statistical study of maternity benefits received by all new mothers living in Saskatchewan from 1993 to 2003 found that 60 per cent of new mothers who worked reported EI benefits, while 25 per cent of new mothers who worked before the birth of baby did not report any EI benefits. The remaining 15 per cent were not employed and thus did not receive benefits.

More recently in May 2016, a Canadian study revealed that some 40 per cent of mothers outside of Quebec did not receive EI payments because they lacked the 600 insurable hours to qualify.

The EI benefit is basically 55 per cent of insurable earnings. If the family’s breadwinner earns the minimum wage (SK: $10.72 per hour as of Oct. 1), it is obvious why some mothers get right back to work. A 2012 Statistics Canada publication indicates that 36 per cent of Canadian children have mothers who were back at work within two weeks of having a baby. Many of them have limited choice as they are from single-parent/low income families.

Numerous studies show that breastfeeding is beneficial to baby and mother. Thus more middle class mothers are choosing to breastfeed their babies exclusively for at least six months. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by Health Canada, the WHO and UNICEF, yet many low income mothers who get little or no EI benefits are denied this choice. This is a heartbreaker, as research shows that breastfeeding helps reduce hospital readmissions and the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Thankfully, there is some good news in respect to low-income families who have children up to 18 years of age. In July 2016, the federal government introduced the Canada Child Benefit which, for example, provides up to $ 6,400 per year for each child under age six. Within this plan, families with less than $ 30,000 in annual net income receive the maximum benefit. The benefit in itself is not taxed. However, to qualify, parents have to file a 2015 tax return, even if the family did not receive income in 2015.

By: Dr.Judith Martin Ph.D.
Adjunct Professor,Sociology,University of Saskatchewan                                            Volunteer, Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters

Originally Published in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on: September 28, 2016

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Exciting Partnerships

I am so proud of how these postcards turned out! I am also proud and impressed by the support we are getting from our health region for this project. We have been partnering with Public Health throughout the development of the Breastfeeding Protection Pledge. As of the beginning of February, Public Health Inspectors in and around Saskatoon will be handing out these postcards on each of their restaurant visits.

We are very hopeful that this partnership will help our Breastfeeding Protection Pledge grow; spreading the word and encouraging more businesses to sign up. I addition to promoting our own program, we hope that the information included on these cards will help to educate owners and workers in the service industry.

We hope that even if businesses are not interested in becoming champions for the cause, they may be influenced by this card and respond more appropriately should any conflict arise in the future. We hope to spread an understanding that breastfeeding in public is not simply a matter of opinion and comfort levels, but a legally protected Human Right.

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The Highs and Lows of a Breastfeeding Journey

We have another guest blog by a local mama who shares her journey in the hopes of helping others. She writes:

“When I started my blog, it was because I wanted to document and remember my parenting journey. I figured if anything I wrote helped someone, that was a bonus.

I share my breastfeeding journey for both these reasons. If I can help one mom who feels lost or overwhelmed, I will feel I’ve done some good.”

Looking back to my pregnancy, I don’t remember giving a lot of thought to breastfeeding. I had a few friends who breastfed, some who didn’t but, I don’t remember having many conversations about either. However, I do remember this: I was determined to have a natural, unmedicated birth, and that was because I knew the evidence said that it was easier to initiate breastfeeding if such a birth took place. That doesn’t mean women who have an epidural or c-sections can’t have great breastfeeding relationships (obviously – I know many such women who have), but it just increases the likelihood.

I did a lot of reading and preparing for birth and then once I had read all I could, I planned to read and learn about breastfeeding. However, I never got the chance, as my son was born nearly four weeks early. The knowledge I had was from one of our prenatal classes (hats off to my husband, APB, as he was the only male who attended the breastfeeding class – all the other men skipped that one!).

The early days and weeks

As this happened nearly 15 months ago, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details. I remember a lactation consultant came and spoke to me and my husband and wanted us to do 20 minutes of breastfeeding, followed by my husband finger feeding our baby while I pumped for 20 minutes….

Keep reading about this mama’s breastfeeding journey!

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The good fight

Today’s entry comes from a local mom who has been kind enough to share her story of breastfeeding struggles, triumphs and comfort in knowing she is not alone:

I was going to have the perfect baby. He (actually in my head he was she, that should have been my first clue that I had no idea what was in store for me.) was going to contently lindsay blog 2come along with me as I lived my life. I was going to have a perfect, easy home birth and then my baby was going to latch and we were going  have this blissful breastfeeding relationship. I figured there would be some rough days and maybe some challenges but we would figure it out and life would keep going as it did before I had a baby. I was never going to have to leave my baby to cry for 5 minutes while I calmed down. I was never going to loose my cool and I certainly wasn’t going to change my life. (all the moms can stop laughing now)

I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong. I had the perfect baby but it was nothing like I thought it would be. The first 10 days were so easy. W latched and seemed to eat really well, he slept at least one 5 hour stretch each day. I was hurting pretty bad from a 4th degree tear, but I was managing. Then all of a sudden it was not good.  Continue reading this powerful story on Lindsay’s original blog.

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Breastfeeding and Work – I made it work!

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated wbw2015-logo-minternationally from August 1-7th (luck Canadians get to celebrate twice as we celebrate Canadian World Breastfeeding Week in October!). This year’s theme is Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make it Work! “Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.” This theme and the many online conversations I’ve seen this week has got me looking back at my own experiences, even though my youngest son weaned 4 years ago.

When my first son was a baby, I couldn’t imagine leaving him so I opted not to go back to work when my maternity leave ended. We just stretched financially and made ends meet the best we could for a while, and I was home to breastfeed and take care of him exactly how I wanted on my terms. When he was 18 months old I took a job working in the early mornings baking and cooking, but I was home shortly after my son and husband woke up. Our breastfeeding relationship was changing and he was becoming more connected to his dad for comfort. It felt like a gentle transition.

I was working and breastfeeding and it was working.

Then a year later I was accepted to the College of Nursing, my son started full-time daycare while I was in school. At 2 1/2 he was still breastfeeding off and on several times throughout the day and for comfort when he was upset and at bedtime. I was really worried about how the transition would feel for him and me. It turned out he got used to not nursing during the day pretty easily and making up for it with lots of cuddles and nummies when we were together. Again our breastfeeding relationship was changing.

I was studying and breastfeeding and it was working.

Then halfway through that year, I found out I was pregnant again and everything felt so much more complicated. School is challenging with an older baby or kid, but I had no idea first sighthow to parent a baby the way I believe in while also figuring out my commitment to my degree. There is a limited amount of time to finish the Nursing degree and I did not feel supported or accommodated by the College when making these decisions. My youngest son was born at the end of September and I was able to be home with him for 3 months with no financial benefits since I had been living on student loans. This time didn’t feel anywhere near long enough and it really made me appreciated the maternity leave we have in Canada.

At 3 months I took one class; it was so hard on everyone involved. My baby was so stressed when I was away and never took to a bottle. I was exhausted and pumping milk was an extra challenge. My amazing childcare providing friend was my saving grace who was able to take care of my boys and keep my baby content enough while I was gone. Then I did 2 year of school part-time before returning to full-time for another 2 years.Christmas 2008 016 (2)

Being a student while mothering young children is so much harder than working and mothering. As a student there is a never ending list of things you should be doing with your time when at home, there is no catching up with reading and assignments, there is only coping and hoping for the best. Yet as hard as it was, it would have been so much harder if I wasn’t breastfeeding my youngest. He didn’t exactly thrive in a big daycare setting (although I am so grateful to have had reliable childcare). Every night and all of our time together was so important, I became a safe place for him to reset and recharge; he became my cue to slow down and take some deep breaths. People often talk about how much they need their sleep so they night wean as their children grow. Image144 (3)For us it was the reverse, I needed to maintain our security and connection and night nursing was my favourite tool. I could sleep and rest without waking much while he nursed and we both refilled our emotional and physical energies.

I was studying and breastfeeding and it was incredibly hard, but it was working.

Being in school definitely changed the way I was able to parent and changed the timing of our breastfeeding. I was still able to maintain the kind of relationship I wanted with my sons, though and I met my own breastfeeding goals. When I hear mothers talking about weaning in order to return to work or school, of course I respect those choices. So often, however they don’t??????? sound like choices, but rather mothers sound resigned to the fate that they feel forced into. I just want to let mothers know that, if they want to, there are plenty of ways to continue to breastfeed even when they don’t spend your days with their children. I have been working or in school more or less since my first son was 18 months old and he breastfed until he was 3 and my youngest breastfed until he was 4. Our breastfeeding patterns didn’t look the same as if I was at home but the relationships changed, adapted and maintained until we were all ready to gradually stop.

Then eventually I was studying and not breastfeeding and it was working.

My mothering advice for every situation is always to ask for help. Returning to work or school is no exception. If you think being away from your baby is impossible while breastfeeding think carefully about the specific barriers and what would make it better, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. None of us can do it all alone :)


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Now Easier to Win!

Screenshot (18)We are so excited to give away a gift certificate for one of our champion businesses! We have heard from some moms, though, that found it hard to take pictures while out with baby, or who forget to enter while they are out. We hear you and want to make it even easier to join in the fun, so we’ve changed the rules a little!

Now you can enter the contest by snapping a picture of yourself at any of our 21 participating businesses or by writing a status about where you went! So even if you forget when you’re out, you can still enter from home! Share your photo or status to twitter, Instagram or on our facebook page. It’s great if you tag the business as well, but the important part is to use #protectbreastfeedingyxe so we can keep track of entries.

For full contest rules and details check out Passport to Breastfeeding Contest

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First Time Mom Breastfeeding in Public

What it means to have breastfeeding protected spaces:

A first time mom’s perspective

 If you would have asked me 4 months ago, before my son was born, if I would breastfeed in public I would have said absolutely not. In fact, I remember having conversations with people about how weird and awkward it would be. Why would I want everyone looking at my breasts? What if other people were uncomfortable? (I certainly would be, since everyone would be looking at my breasts.) What if someone approached me or stared at me, how would I respond? Although I was breastfed, I had only saw a baby being breastfed on two occasions in my whole life. I thought breastfeeding was something private, and therefore it should be done in private.

 Fast-forward 4 months, I now have an amazing, happy, thriving little person that I have the privilege of getting to spend my days with. He looks to me for comfort, warmth, nourishment, and encouragement (among other things). What I quickly found out when I became a mother is that I will do basically anything to ensure E. has everything he needs (including, and most importantly, the ability to exercise his right to nurse whenever he needs to). It doesn’t matter where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing; his needs are the focal point of my life. Meeting his needs isn’t always an easy task (if anyone ever tells you parenting is easy they probably aren’t parents!). I have only been able to do it with support from my friends, family, and community.

ericacorilaurenCommunity can mean many different things. It can mean people, places, and spaces that share a common location or demographic with you; community can also be something you build around yourself – a group of people you look to for support. In some cases, a community is built around you without you even knowing. This is the type of community that was created for me, by the dedicated team and supporters of Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters through the Breastfeeding Protection Pledge.

 Having spaces that are actively working towards normalizing breastfeeding is so important. Breastfeeding in public is very scary – but necessary – for many new moms. When my son was born it was a major source of anxiety and sometimes a barrier to me leaving my house. I would always wonder what I would do if there wasn’t a private place to feed him; I certainly would not resort to feeding him in a bathroom (I wouldn’t like eating on a toilet either). When I look back, it would have been very reassuring to know there were businesses in the city who openly welcome breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Since it was before the initiative started, I looked to my “built” community for support. I was lucky enough to be exposed to a few different breastfeeding groups in the city. It was through the advice, support, encouragement, and modelling from the women I met that I learned how normal breastfeeding really was. Seeing other women feed in public, and being provided safe spaces to learn ways to feed in public allowed me to become more comfortable nursing E.

10356319_717535494975375_201452943157562451_n[1]Once you get over those initial nerves of feeding in public it becomes much easier. You quickly learn that people don’t actually look at your breast, because not very much of your breast is actually exposed. People generally can’t even tell that you’re feeding your child, and if they can it doesn’t really bother you because you are giving your baby what s/he needs, regardless of how others feel about it. Without spaces to try out feeding though, this wouldn’t be possible.

 So what does having breastfeeding protected spaces mean to a first time mom? It means being able to participate in the community around them and gives them opportunities to build their own community. It gives them the opportunity to learn from other moms and to become comfortable nursing. Hopefully, it gives other mothers (whether they be new, experienced, or somewhere in between) the support and encouragement to breastfeed in public too so together we can #protectbreastfeeding and #normalizebreastfeeding.


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Enter to Win!

We want to give away some prizes and see your pictures! DSC08195

Screenshot (18)All you have to do is go to any of the locations who have signed our pledge (check back often since the list of participating businesses will keep growing) and take a picture of yourself marthawith your baby. You don’t have to be breastfeeding in the picture if you don’t want, but we do love breastfeeding pics! Try to include a menu, napkin, sign or something that shows where you are. Then share the picture on Instagram or twitter using  #protectbreastfeedingyxe, or post it to our facebook page . Once you share your pics, you will be entered into a draw for a $25 gift certificate. You can enter one photo, per business per day. We will draw one winner a month and the gift certificate will come from one of the original 10 businesses who signed up for the pledge. Full contest details are posted.

So far, you can take your picture at any of these great locations, but there are several about to join, I’ll keep adding as we get more signed up:



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Celebrating Midwives and Midwifery Care for the Breastfeeding Mother

May 5th is International Day of the Midwife.  There are a growing number of midwives in Canada.  Canadian midwifery is exercised in some provinces with independent practitioners and in other provinces and territories with midwives as employees of the local health region.  However, all jurisdictions share some key values – CHOICE is a big one – choice of birthplace, choice of caregiver and client informed choice. CARE by familiar caregivers rather than fragmentation of care is the key value, as well as COLLABORATION with other members of the woman’s team.  In addition, midwifery re-emerged in Canada in the environment of EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE and the need to participate in research.  So midwives embrace breastfeeding as evidenced-based practice, they embrace it in their personal lives and provide informed choice  and support for their clients. midwife

Midwives make an important contribution to their clients’ success with breastfeeding. The Health Canada Maternity Experiences study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2010 uncovered that women giving birth at home are five times more likely to meet the World Health Organization recommendation for babies to receive only breastmilk from birth and onwards for the first six months of life.

Why is this important?  – Because there are health benefits and relationship benefits for children and for their mothers when infants breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. These benefits have impacts on short term and long-term health of both the mother and the child. The evidence shows that these health benefits translate into economic benefits for society as a whole.

So why would there be this big difference of women birthing at home as compared to birthing and in hospital? The authors of the paper suggest that birthing in hospital carries a much greater exposure to artificial baby milks. About 47% of babies born in hospital have been given infant formula before discharge. There are babies for whom there are medical indications for the use of supplements such as low blood sugar that is unresponsive to the amount of colostrum the mother can give.    However, the number of babies given supplements before hospital discharge is greater than the number of babies for whom there is a medical indication.

So what else is it about midwifery care at home that makes a difference?  We know that these are healthy mothers, or they would have been counseled to birth in hospital.  They also have not given birth by cesarean section, which is another scenario that increases the probability the baby will be exposed to other milks by six months. Because birthing at home as the norm was lost for a period of time in Canada, it is more likely that women who have the resources and education to get informed about options of place of birth are more likely to birth at home – and these are also characteristics that describe women who are more aware of the World Health recommendation to wait until babies are six months of age before introducing other foods.  While there is no reason for healthy low risk first- time mothers to avoid planning a homebirth, often there is a greater percentage of mothers who have older children who give birth at home.  These women have more experience with babies and likely with breastfeeding with their first children.  They have developed their support systems, and can relax – as Kate Middleton is with her new baby!

There are other aspects of midwifery care that are available to all their clients.  According to a recent article in the Journal of Human Lactation, the attitude toward breastfeeding of partner and mother in a woman’s life affect her ability to reach her breastfeeding goals.  Canadian midwives are known to their clients, and develop a relationship with her working in small teams.  They see women for longer visits, 30-60 minutes prenatally, making it worth the while of partners to take time off to attend prenatal visits.  The midwives see the family in the home for some visits in the post partum period – which is another opportunity to interact with the partner – extended family and friends who are visiting and also to counsel a mother about ways to cope with unsupportive family and friends. The ongoing support and easy availability of the known team of midwives during the first six weeks is another aspect of the Canadian model of midwifery care that counteracts a known risk factor affecting breastfeeding when mothers go home with breastfeeding challenges that have not been resolved yet.

So please join us at Breastfeeding Matters in wishing our midwives Happy International Day of the Midwife and our encouragement to keep up the good work!


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Breastfeeding Protection Pledge

I am very excited to be announcing this project! It has been months of hard work: meetings, emails, stepping forward, stumbling backward and then huge leaps forward! I am so incredibly proud to be a part of this talented and dedicated team.

The Breastfeeding Protection Pledge is a project we have designed in partnership with the Saskatoon Health Region; details were created with feedback from restaurant operators and breastfeeding mothers in our community.

Participating restaurants and businesses will sign a pledge committing to train staff to protect breastfeeding mothers and children from judgement, Screenshot (18)discrimination or harassment. Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters, along with our partners, is providing education and resources to interested businesses. We want to help everyone understand how the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission protects breastfeeding mothers from discrimination and the simple steps they can take to welcome breastfeeding families. Once they’ve signed the pledge and received the resources, businesses will display a sticker on their door or window to let breastfeeding mothers know that they can feel safe to breastfeed without worrying about others.


So far we have the support and participation of the City of Saskatoon Leisure Centers, Saskatoon Public Libraries, Station 20 West, the Saskatoon Mothers’ Centre, and The Saskatoon Friendship Inn along with the following eating establishments: Fuddruckers, Earthbound Bakery and Delicatessen, City Perks Coffeehouse, The Night Oven Bakery, Bottega, Citizens Café & Bakery, Leyda’s Cafe, Drift Sidewalk Cafe, Cora and Smiley’s. All passport collage (2)of these locations appear in our “Passport to Breastfeeding” a printed resource that will be given to mothers at 2 and 4 month visits to the Child Health Clinics. The “Passport to Breastfeeding” provides mothers with information about our program, their rights, our photo contest, and also serves as a guide to our first businesses who have been enthusiastic supporters of the program. We hope that our list of participating restaurants will continue to grow as word spreads of the program.

This Thursday, May 7, 2015 Saskatoon Health Region and Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters will be hosting a media conference at Station 20 West at 2:30 pm. This will be the official launch of the Breastfeeding Protection Pledge. Refreshments will be served. We are hoping to see many of our champion businesses there, as well as breastfeeding mothers. See you there!


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