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Breastfeeding being encouraged any time, any place by Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa is on its way to becoming a breastfeeding friendly city, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Ottawa Public Health.

The World Health Organization and Ottawa Public Health agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest form of feeding for both mom and baby.

Still, many women fear doing it in public because they believe they will be judged or watched.

Ottawa Public Health is trying to change that, installing signs, building public awareness and running support programs to get the message out to moms and try to create breastfeeding friendly environments.

"So that moms are going to see other moms breastfeeding and that people, even if they're not in breastfeeding families will be exposed to it so that it's not so much of an unsettling thing, so it doesn't make people uncomfortable because it's something that they see every day," said Ottawa Public Health nurse Caren Croft.

She said they want to encourage moms to feel welcome to breastfeed anywhere.

"If we can have children and youth seeing women breastfeeding, when they themselves are making their decision about feeding their babies it's going to be a more natural thing for them to think about being able to do it outside of their home," she said.

There are challenges with fighting discomfort and stigma around breastfeeding in public but the goal is to make Ottawa a breastfeeding friendly city.

Croft said the health and societal benefits are clear.

"We know that breastfeeding is good, not just for the babies but for the mothers, for families in general, for society. You could even extrapolate it to the point of, from society, healthy children mean less time away from work for parents," she said.

"(It's) better for the environment, there's no packaging and things that's put out there. The cost to hospitals and to health insurance and things (are reduced) because we don't have a lot of the chronic illnesses and diseases," Croft said.

But she was also very adamant that moms who choose other methods of feeding their babies have the full support of Ottawa Public Health and its many programs for moms-to-be and new moms. The agency will help families learn about safe storage and serving of formula as well.

The main goal, Croft said, was making sure moms and families are making an informed choice and one that isn't restricted by pressures they may be feeling from others about breastfeeding in public.

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