By James Rose

Special to the Pioneer

On Saturday October 1st, the second annual world-wide Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge is set to take place at the Invermere Public Library from 10:30 a.m. to noon. This free event is open to the whole family and is part of a challenge to see which geographic area (province, state or territory) has the most breastfeeding babies, as a percentage of the birthrate, latched on at 11a.m. local time.

We are gearing up for another great breastfeeding week here in Canada and we have three breastfeeding challenges planned around the East Kootenay including the Invermere area, said lactation consultant Daleen Bybee who organizes the Cranbrook event and operates Over The Rainbow Family Services. The events are coordinated by Interior Health representatives in conjunction with Over The Rainbow Family Services and Breastfeeding Mamas! facilitators.

The Breastfeeding Mamas! is a peer support group for breastfeeding mothers and those who want to learn more about breastfeeding. The group hosts monthly meetings in addition to the annual challenge. In Invermere, the meetings take place at the Invermere Public Library on the third Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m.. The group also has a vibrant, online network that mothers can access 24/7 on Facebook. They can ask questions, gather information and support other moms along their journey, said Ms. Bybee.

The Quentessence Breastfeeding Challenges serve as a great way to celebrate breastfeeding and milk-banking. Last year 144 took place across Canada with more than 8,000 women in total participating. More than a dozen participated in the Invermere event. The turn out in Invermere was great last year for it being the first year and we expect those numbers to increase.

Throughout the course of the morning we demonstrate promotion, protection and support for breastfeeding women and their families. There will be goodie bags and cool door prizes from local event sponsors and its a chance for education and peer support done in a fun social way, said Ms. Bybee.

The events and the kind of outreach that peer groups such as the Breastfeeding Mamas! provide comes at a time when breastfeeding rates across Canada, according to Ms. Bybee, continue to be alarming low. The reason they are so low, she says, is because by and large there is lack support.

For example, in the past, mothers typically stayed in the hospital after giving birth for up to one week. Today, a mother will leave the hospital within 24-48 hours. That has made a huge difference in receiving the much needed support for starting and maintaining a breastfeeding relationship, said Ms. Bybee. Families need support along their breastfeeding journey and celebrating Breastfeeding Week is a great way to kick-off support around the region for a new year.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding for ( at least ) the first six months after birth and ideally up to two years and beyond . In 2011 the results of a Stats Canada study showed that in Canada, only about a quarter of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding for six months, said Ms. Bybee.

Hosting these types of events is all part of our goal to help increase those numbers because whats at stake for both mothers and babies is the multitude of health benefits that result breastfeeding.

For babies, the developmental benefits include improved immune, digestive and neurological systems, ideal jaw and tooth development, and a better chance of avoiding Crohns and Celiac disease. For mothers, benefits include far better odds of avoiding postpartum depression, weight loss, and the overall balancing of hormones, said Ms. Bybee.

For more information, visit to learn more about the Challenge and the Breastfeeding Mamas!