• The Kanesatake Health Center announces its accreditation under the UNICEF/WHO for their Baby-Friendly Initiative
Aug 07, 2013

Kanesatake, August 6 – The Kanesatake Health Center held a press conference today to officially announce its accreditation under the UNICEF/WHO for their Baby-Friendly Initiative. On December 13, 2012 Kanesatake became the first aboriginal health center in North America to receive this recognition

The Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) was established in 1991 by W.H.O/UNICEF to encourage maternity hospitals to implement the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding and to practise in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.  Since then, many studies have shown that breastfeeding and a strong mother-baby bond is the foundation for a baby’s future health and wellbeing. In Aboriginal communities, it also helps revitalize traditional intergenerational teachings of women and heal the wrongs left by residential schools on parenting skills.

From 1995 to 2001, Jane Banks, CHN  for the Kanesatake Health Center, developed and implemented a breastfeeding promotion program that saw breastfeeding initiation rates increase from 32 to 75 percent.  This program called Ka’nisténhsera Teiakotihsnie`s (KT), “she who helps the clan mother” applied principles of cultural competency and capacity building, utilizing the strengths within the people.  Building on this foundation, ten years later, the health center began working toward Baby Friendly accreditation.  This involved the adoption of a Baby Friendly policy; the training of staff and a dynamic group of breastfeeding peer support women; intergenerational gatherings; and establishing partnerships at many levels.  The community has seen the breastfeeding initiation and duration rates increase substantially.  Karen MacInnes, Maternal Child Health Nurse, reported, “At the time of our accreditation, not only did 90 percent of our mothers initiate breast feeding but 90 percent of those mothers breastfed six months and beyond!” 

“When I first took the training, I didn’t realize I would learn so much. It impacted not only the way I viewed breastfeeding, but also birthing and mothering on every level. I wondered when did we lose faith in our own abilities to nurture our children. Why did we make the move away from choosing to give our children their own custom made food source?” – questions Karennahawi McComber, a woman from the peer support group. “I saw all the potential this program has to offer our community as well as the long term health and wellness benefits. I truly believe that we can heal our nation’s one breastfed baby at a time.”

“We are determined to not only empower our own community but to empower other First Nations communities by providing culturally sensitive support, training and resources. We believe that by encouraging other First Nations to become “Baby Friendly” it will strengthen our nation’s overall health and wellbeing and lay the foundation for the next seven generations”, says Joyce Bonspiel-Nelson, Executive Director of the Kanesatake Health Center.