October 11, 2005


Toronto breastfeeding clinic faces closure

(click here to view NFACT's letter to North York General Hospital)


North York General Hospital, one of Toronto’s largest health facilities, is closing its breastfeeding clinic.  For years, the clinic has been run by Canada’s pre-eminent breastfeeding expert, Dr. Jack Newman, with Dr. Glen Berall and Toronto Lactation Consultant Edith Kernerman.  This clinic is very important because in addition to the dozens of breastfeeding mothers it helps every week, it  also hosts many volunteers and observers, such as medical students, doctors, and aspiring lactation consultants.  In this way, the clinic has helped to spread proper breastfeeding practices through not only North York, but the wider medical community as well.


The administration at the hospital says it has decided to eliminate the clinic because space is at a premium and they cannot afford to house any program that does not directly involve hospital staff.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to see how this decision will not have an adverse effect on the health of the mothers and infants in the Greater Toronto Area, and thus violate the mandate of this public health facility.  The closure is all the more distressing because there are now rumours that similar clinics around the Toronto area will also be shut down. 


Please voice your displeasure at this decision, and send a letter to Bonnie Adamson, President and CEO of NYGH.  You can write your own or altered the attached letter from INFACT Canada (below).  Adamson’s address is:




The letter may be cc’ed to:


Ms. Nazira Jaffer, Director, Paediatrics and Maternal Newborn Program:  njaffer@nygh.on.ca   


Eugene Ng, Co-Chair of the Breastfeeding Task Force: eng@nygh.on.ca


Georgina Veldhorst, Vice President, Patient and Family Care: gveldhorst@nygh.on.ca


Dr. Glenn Berall, Chief of Paediatrics: gberall@nygh.on.ca






Bonnie Adamson                                                                                   October 11,  2005

North York General Hospital, President and CEO

Toronto, ON




Dear Ms. Adamson,

It is very disappointing to hear that North York General Hospital is closing its breastfeeding clinic. This unfortunately is a very short-sighted approach to increasing efficiencies in the hospital system. As a matter of fact increasing support for breastfeeding mothers and babies is considered by the World Health Organization and global experts on infant and young child health to be the most effective and least costly means to improve infant and young child health. Breastfeeding support is the most effective method of primary disease prevention ranking far above supports such as vaccinations (see The Lancet Child Survival series) and other interventions that we have available to us.  Fortuitously, the cost of breastfeeding support is almost nothing.


Study after scientific study documents the importance of breastfeeding during early life. Infants who are breastfed have far fewer infectious diseases, both gastrointestinal and respiratory; suffer from fewer autoimmune diseases - cancers, diabetes, allergies and asthma. Adults who were breastfed as children have lower risks of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Children who have been breastfed have higher IQs, perform better in academic tasks and have fewer emotional and neurological problems.


For all the above reasons and more, Health Canada's infant feeding policies recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, then the introduction of solids with continued breastfeeding for two years and more.


The Canadian Paediatric Society has also endorsed these policies. At the very start of the mother and infant relationship the proper support systems are crucial in order to establish good breastfeeding practices. It is for that very reason that the World Health Organization and UNICEF initiated the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The BFHI recognizes the critical importance of breastfeeding support immediately after birth as a key component of maternal and infant health. When this support is unavailable frustrated mothers and parents turn to artificial feeding, often unaware of the health impact this has for both mother and infant.


The breastfeeding clinic at NYGH has proved particularly important because in addition to helping breastfeeding mothers and babies, it has been instrumental in training medical students, doctors, lactation consultants and other health workers in proper breastfeeding practices.  In this way it has helped to create a healthier community and a better equipped health care system.  

As a publicly funded institution, it is the moral obligation of North York General Hospital to provide the highest attainable standard of care. By providing breastfeeding support for all mothers and babies at NYGH, this obligation can be met. The cost is insignificant, however the benefits are enormous and lasting. The families and the communities of Toronto will be the better for it. INFACT Canada urges you to consider full restoration of breastfeeding support services and to initiate the process of becoming a Baby-Friendly Hospital and community. We would be pleased to provide resources and further information on how to achieve breastfeeding-friendly practices for your hospital.

I look forward to your reply,

Elisabeth Sterken, nutritionist, MSc, Dt
Director INFACT Canada, IBFAN North America
63 Burtch's Lane
Rockport, ON
K0E 1V0






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