Nova Scotia

Breastfeeding hotline, weekend nurse visits nixed

Breastfeeding advocates in Nova Scotia say they are concerned for new mothers after some of the province's breastfeeding services were cut back.

Capital Health says hotline only averaging 3 calls a day

The World Health Organization Helping new mothers to breastfeed could save the lives of 1.3 million children worldwide each year. (iStock)

Breastfeeding advocates in Nova Scotia say they’re concerned for new mothers after some of the province’s breastfeeding services were cut back.

As of Monday callers to a breastfeeding hotline in the province will be redirected to 811. Beforehand new mothers could leave messages with their questions and a nurse would call them back.

In the Capital District Health Authority, home visits by public health nurses to mothers learning to breastfeed will be reduced from six days a week to five.

Barbarie Palmer heads a La Leche League Canada volunteer support group for nursing mothers in Dartmouth. She said she will be fielding more calls now that home visits from public health nurses have been cutback to weekdays only.

"I’m quite concerned. The weekend coverage is one of those critical aspects. Forty-eight [hours] in the life of a brand-new baby and brand-new mom is significant," she said.

Capital Health said it will continue to ensure mothers are contacted within three days of their discharge.

Public health co-ordinator Valerie Campbell said the hotline was averaging only three calls a day and the skills of the full-time nurse can be reassigned.

"You might call it a cost-saving measure, but we’ve had to make changes within public health to meet some of our other needs. So yes, there are less nurses working on our healthy beginnings team, there's been a shift," she said.

Campbell said helping families with high needs are a priority, but Palmer said she wonders how reducing support for breastfeeding squares with other goals.

"The province has indicated that nutrition of mother and infant health are where they are looking to direct resources and this seems counter to that," she said.

Capital Health said it remains committed to helping women breastfeed longer, but it doesn’t think having nurses visit homes seven days a week is the best use of limited resources.

Breastfeeding is a human right in Nova Scotia.