Note: For information on breastfeeding during COVID-19 Pandemic, Please visit:


Breastfeeding is the normal and unequalled way to feed babies. It is important for mothers, babies, and for the community. Health Canada and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for two years or more along with the introduction of solid foods.

What We Do

The TBDHU’s role is to:

  • Provide breastfeeding support services to mothers in the District of Thunder Bay
  • Ensure accurate, accessible information is available to pregnant women by providing online and in-person prenatal classes
  • Implement best practice, evidence-based care to all families
  • Educate the public, parents and health care providers about breastfeeding
  • Advocate for breastfeeding friendly environments and workplaces
  • Work with community partners to improve breastfeeding support and services
  • Collect information on breastfeeding rates and trends in the Thunder Bay District
  • Breastfeeding Clinic 
  • Visit our Classes, Clinics and Events Calendar to see when the next breastfeeding clinic is held


Breastfeeding and You

Getting Breastfeeding Off to a Good Start

Breastfeeding is natural but can take a little time for moms and babies to learn. Pregnancy is a great time to get information and talk to health care providers and others who know about breastfeeding to discuss any questions or concerns you might have.

After having your baby, start breastfeeding as soon as you can. It is a good idea to keep your baby with you skin to skin for the first couple of hours. Having your baby on your chest will encourage him to latch and start feeding. You will be producing immune-rich colostrum for the first few days. Did you know that when your baby is born, their stomach will be about the size of a cherry? The amount of colostrum is perfect for your baby’s stomach size and for your baby to learn how to feed. Your baby will want to feed often. After a few days your baby will be getting more milk and will start gaining weight. Avoid using pacifiers (soothers) and bottle nipples while your baby is learning to breastfeed. Think about taking a prenatal class, either in-person or online: Online Prenatal Program.

Importance of Skin-to-Skin

Skin-to-skin is done by placing your baby against your bare chest, while your baby is wearing just a diaper. You can keep the baby warm by placing a blanket over their back. Keeping your baby skin-to-skin after birth is better than keeping them swaddled in a blanket. Mothers are encouraged to practice skin-to-skin, but it is important for partners too!

Skin-to-skin is important because it helps to:

  • Get breastfeeding off to a good start
  • Increase mother’s milk supply
  • Keep baby comfortable and reduce crying
  • Stabilize baby’s heart rate, temperature and breathing rate
  • Stabilize baby’s blood sugar

For more helpful information, you can visit the following resources:


Baby Feeding Cues

Feeding cues are the signs your baby gives to show you when they are ready to feed and when they have had enough to eat.

How often and how long babies feed is determined by your baby’s needs and cues. Newborn babies usually feed every 1-3 hours, 8 or more times in 24 hours.

 Feed your baby when you see these early feeding cues:

  • Eyes and eyelids moving in light sleep;
  • Bringing hand to mouth;
  • Turning head and rooting (reaching with mouth).

Responding to your babies cues will help to make breastfeeding easier and will help build good milk supply and prevent full breasts (engorgement). Your baby will probably cry less and gain weight faster. For more information on feeding cues:


Signs that Breastfeeding is Going Well

Many parents worry that if their baby is breastfed, they won’t be able to be sure their baby is “getting enough." There are signs you can look out for that your baby is drinking enough milk.

Your baby is getting enough milk if he/she:

  • Feeds at least eight times in 24 hours (whenever they show signs they are hungry)
  • Is latched and sucking strongly
  • You can hear swallowing (a “ca” “ca”)
  • Has enough wet and “poopy” diapers
  • Is satisfied after feeds
  • Is gaining weight as expected

Guidelines for Nursing Mothers (PDF) is a helpful graphic that shows how often your baby should be fed and how you can tell your baby is getting enough milk.


Expressing and Storing Breastmilk

If breastfeeding doesn't go as planned or your baby is not ready to breastfeed right away, it’s important to learn how to express your milk to feed your baby.  Learn from your nurse or lactation consultant how to give your baby your milk from a spoon or a cup until your baby learns to breastfeed well.

Hand expressing is a way to collect your breast milk. No buying or sterilizing equipment is required. Just wash your hands and use a clean container like a spoon or a cup. It’s a useful skill new mothers can learn with a bit of practice. Before you know it, you will be able to use hand expression easily.

Reasons to Hand Express Include:

  • To help soften your breasts and help baby to latch if your breasts are very full (engorged)
  • Expressing a few drops to get baby interested in latching
  • If done after breastfeeding, it can help to increase your milk supply
  • Collecting and storing milk if you will be away from your baby
  • If you are using a breast pump, hand expressing in combination with pumping can increase the volume of milk you are able to express.

Follow the links below for more information

  • How to Hand Express (Video)
  • Cup Feeding for Small Babies (video below) demonstrates cup feeding technique for expressed breastmilk:

For more information on expressing milk and where to access breast pumps, please contact the Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program at (807) 625-5900 or toll-free at 1-888-294-6630


After the early days…

Parents often have questions about how to keep breastfeeding as their baby grows and life changes.

A common question is how to start feeding solid foods at 6 months. The guide Feeding your Baby will give you information about how to know when your baby is ready for solids and what are appropriate foods to give your baby.

If you are returning to work while you are breastfeeding, ask your employer about how they can support you.  Breastfeeding mothers need some flexibility to schedules for feeding and expressing, a place to express and store breastmilk and supportive management and co-workers. More information on returning to work after baby can be found here: Returning to Work After Baby 

Did you know that breastfeeding mothers are legally protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code? This means that women can’t be discriminated against because of their gender, including breastfeeding. Mothers have the right to breastfeed in public anytime, anywhere free from harassment.

For more information on what the Human Rights Code means for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers visit the Policy on preventing discrimination because of pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Not Breastfeeding?

You have probably heard that there are differences between breastfeeding and formula feeding. Breastmilk offers complete nutrition for babies. It also has with it many live cells that protect the infant from illness.  It is not possible for formula to duplicate these unique qualities of breastmilk.

Breastfeeding is encouraged and supported because babies who are formula fed are at higher risk for:

  • More frequent infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Obesity
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Some childhood cancers

Mothers who don’t breastfeed have a higher risk for:

  • Postpartum bleeding
  • Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • Breast & ovarian cancers

Formula feeding is expensive, and costs a lot more than breastfeeding. Information and samples from companies that make formula and other feeding products may encourage you to feed your baby formula. Giving formula supplements can decrease milk supply and make it difficult for mothers to breastfeed.

If you are feeding your baby formula because you are having difficulty with breastfeeding, most problems with breastfeeding can be resolved with help. Some babies with critical illness or in a neonatal care unit who need supplements may receive pasteurized breast milk from a Human Milk Bank.

Families who have a medical need or who have chosen to formula feed need support and information on the type of formula to use, how to prepare, store and feed formula. For more information on how to safely choose, prepare, feed and store infant formula, visit the Kids & Food page.


Where to Get Help

After the early days of breastfeeding, there is still a lot to learn. Getting support from other mothers and health professionals can help you along the way.

TBDHU Supports

  • Breastfeeding Clinic
  • Visit our Classes, Clinics and Events Calendar to see when the next breastfeeding clinic is held.
  • TBDHU Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program: 807-625-5900. A Public Health Nurses can provide telephone support and home visits for prenatal clients and families with children ages 0 to 6.

Community Supports

  • Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000: Have a 24-hour telephone breastfeeding support service, where all nurses are specially trained in providing help with breastfeeding.
  • Bilingual Online Ontario Breastfeeding Services: This website can help you find breastfeeding support services in your community. Just search for your city and see the programs and services that can give you the help and support you need.
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) Maternity Centre: Offers breastfeeding support through clinic services and Bosom Buddies support group.
  • La Leche League: Offer a weekly playgroup and drop-in where you can meet other moms and get support and encouragement.


For Further Information

Call the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program: (807) 625-5900

or Toll-free 1-888-294-6630

Last Updated: 28/04/2022