Breastfeeding ‘contract’ offends new parents


Handout information said to be dated, worded poorly

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

Fraser Health is under fire after parents began posting on the website about a breastfeeding “contract” typically introduced to parents with newborns. The two-page form, entitled “Did You Know…,” has been in use since 2007, but parents are just now reacting. The contract itself is not a mandatory obligation, but more of a personal goal outline for parents.

“Did You Know”serves as a guide for new parents, particularly mothers, outlining the benefits of breastfeeding newborns. However, people are raising concerns with the choice of wording and tone, which condemns formula, suggests an overwhelming likelihood of diseases, and confusingly pressures new mothers about their’s and their child’s weight.

The document states that, “Babies who do not receive breast milk are more likely to get significant illness and disease.” The document then lists several potentially increased health risks, ranging from diarrhea and colds to cancer and obesity, along with a statistic stating the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome would be increased by 38.5 per cent.

The final note on the list of potential risks for non-breastfed babies states, “children may score a bit lower on IQ tests.”

Following the list of health dangers to babies is a list of health dangers to mothers who do not breastfeed. The risks section for non-breastfeeding mothers included Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer before menopause, ovarian cancer, and the line “mothers can take longer to lose their pregnancy weight.”

One of the most-discussed lines in the document is the first statement: “Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed your baby.” Critics assert that, while it is true that breastfeeding is generally the preferred—and often lauded as the best—option for newborns (especially in their first six months), there are many parents who cannot produce enough or any milk. Furthermore, feeding schedules and diets can fluctuate with new babies and parents; the contract suggests a consistent schedule of eight feedings every 24 hours.

The handout lists options like mixed feeding and formula-only feeding, but also reminds the parent that they’ll be increasing the health risks of their children. The formula-feeding option also points out the expense of purchasing formula as a negative setback.

After a number of blogs and media sources responded to the controversial handout, Fraser Health maternity director Tamara Van Tent told the Province, “We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the content of the form.

“We recognize that this form does not reflect our intentions, which was to identify feeding options, educate families, and support decisions in a manner that is compassionate and supportive.”

Fraser Health has since removed the handout and is creating a new one with public assistance in order to create a more inclusive tone.