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Canada's Breastfeeding Rates Highest In B.C.: Statistics Canada

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British Columbia has the highest percentage of babies breastfed exclusively for six months or more, says Statistics Canada. | Getty

British Columbian mothers are more likely to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months or more than mothers in the rest of Canada, a report released Monday by Statistics Canada shows.

While almost 9 in 10 Canadian mothers initiate breastfeeding soon after their child's birth, only a percentage of those continue exclusively breastfeeding (giving their infants no other liquids, formula or solids) for Health Canada's recommended six months.

In B.C. the percentage of mothers breastfeeding exclusively for six months or more was 41 per cent in 2011/12, up from 28 per cent in 2003. (That compares to just 26 percent in 2011/12 and 17 per cent in 2003 across Canada, and 25 per cent and 18 per cent respectively in Ontario.)

Breaking the statistics down to individual health authorities within B.C. during 2011/12, the highest rates were in the Vancouver Health Authority (49%) and the Vancouver Island Health Authority (48%).

The survey showed that mothers aged over-30 with post-secondary education were more likely to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months.

The most cited reasons for stopping breastfeeding were problems with milk supply and difficulty with breastfeeding technique generally.

A recently-released U.S. study found that most new mothers have concerns within the first two months after giving birth that lead them to consider giving up breastfeeding and switching to formula.

"It's a shame that those early problems can be the difference between a baby only getting breast milk for a few days and going on to have a positive breastfeeding relationship for a year or longer," Laurie A. Nommsen-Rivers, the study's senior author, from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, told Reuters Health.

"If we are able to provide mothers with adequate support, 95 percent of all breastfeeding problems are reversible."

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