Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Ontario Nurses Offer New Support For Breastfeeding And Postpartum Depression

New best practice guidelines by Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) mark International Women’s Day, March 8

TORONTO, March 3, 2006  – As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Ontario nurses today released two timely resources that RNs and other health-care providers can use to support breastfeeding mothers and help those suffering postpartum depression.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s newly released clinical and educational resources –Breastfeeding Best Practice and Interventions for Postpartum Depression best practice guidelines (BPGs) – provide specific evidence-based professional strategies and tools (available online and in print) for nurses and others to provide the best possible care for women through these critical female life passages.  

 “We are committed to supporting women to live the fullest and healthiest lives possible, especially after the life-changing milestone of giving birth. We know that mother’s milk offers the healthiest start for babies, and our breastfeeding guideline encourages and supports women to start and continue breastfeeding.  We also know that having a child can trigger postpartum depression, and our second resource helps new mothers get the help they need as early as possible.  Together, these two guidelines, based on the best evidence-to-date, will help to strengthen the care of new mothers within our health-care system,” says Tazim Virani, director of RNAO’s Nursing Best Practice Guidelines Program.

RNAO’s Breastfeeding Best Practice Guideline (September, 2003) provides Ontario nurses with specific clinical and educational strategies to promote breastfeeding in health-care settings across Ontario.  This proactive instructive aid for nurses and other health-care professionals, recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months and then continuing the practice for up to two years while introducing other foods (as recommended by the World Health Organization).  The guideline helps nurses impart the key basics of latching, positioning and assessing when your baby is full.  Nurses also learn how to create personalized follow-up plans for breastfeeding women to help them keep it up after they get home from the hospital.

“It is now well documented that breast milk contains a perfect amount of fluid and nutrients, important for the development of a newborn’s retina and brain.  It is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers,” says RN Monique Stewart, director of the Public Health Research Education and Development (PHRED) Program at Ottawa Public Health, and a lead in developing the guideline.  

RNAO’s Interventions for Postpartum Depression (April, 2005) helps nurses identify and treat what is often, a very misunderstood female illness.  Postpartum depression is a major health issue affecting up to 13 per cent of all women and its risk highest within the first 12 weeks after birth. Research also tells us that a woman is significantly more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital within the first four weeks postpartum than at any other time in her life. This proactive instructive aid is applicable to many health-care settings and helps nurses and other heath-care professionals learn to distinguish between three postpartum affective disorders: postpartum blues, postpartum depression, and the most serious “puerperal” psychosis.  The guideline provides nurses with specific strategies to prevent the symptoms from getting worse and to ensure that new mothers have access to safe and effective treatment.

“The stress of new motherhood can intensify underlying depression and feelings of low self-esteem and loneliness.  Ontario nurses are reaching out to ensure that new mothers receive the best postpartum expertise and support they need during what can be one of the most overwhelming periods of a woman’s life,” says RN Cindy-Lee Dennis of the faculty of nursing at the University of Toronto, and the lead in creating the guideline.

Both newly launched guidelines were developed by a multi-disciplinary panel of health-care professionals and stakeholders with working expertise in these two areas.

Last December, RNAO also released a Woman Abuse: Screening, Identification and Initial Response guideline to help Ontario nurses and other health-care providers facilitate the routine and universal screening for woman abuse in a variety of health-care settings.

RNAO’s ambitious Best Practice Guidelines Program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and was launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across a wide spectrum of health-care areas. The 29 guidelines developed to date are a substantive contribution towards building excellence in Ontario’s health-care system. They are available to nurses across Canada and abroad.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario.  Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.  To learn more about RNAO’s Nursing Best Guidelines Program or to view this resource, please visit: .

For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605