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Green background with universal breast/chestfeeding logo in the centre
Holland Bloorview promotes culture of safety and education on breast/chestfeeding

The new initiative follows recent implementation of semi-private spaces designated for those who prefer privacy while breastfeeding and chestfeeding onsite

In line with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s dedication to co-creation and building inclusive environments, a working group comprised of family leaders, leadership and frontline staff formed in summer 2023. Together, they worked with a shared goal to foster a culture of acceptance and safety for caregivers, families and staff who require space to breastfeed, chestfeed and/or express milk during their time in the hospital.

Client service facilitator, Desiree Da Costa, noticed a gap in this area after listening to the needs of families during their initial registration process at Holland Bloorview. Upon hearing repeated desire for an allocated space, she quickly jumped into action to support.

“Our families were the inspiration,” says Desiree. “Last year, we received an increased amount of requests for private breast and chestfeeding spaces from families. I wanted to bring this suggestion forward and advocate on their behalf.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission supports the right to breastfeed and chestfeed undisturbed in a public place. Breast/chestfeeding people cannot be asked to cover up or to move to another area.

“As a client and family-centred care facility, Holland Bloorview supports lactating persons to breastfeed, chestfeed and/or express milk onsite anywhere, anytime,” says Clara Ho, manager of client and family-centred care and partnerships and project lead for this initiative.

The team focused on developing materials representing all forms of milk expression and applicable to all gender identities. This includes the launch of universal breast/chestfeeding-friendly signage placed in common areas across the hospital.

“It was important for us to make everyone feel seen and supported, and this includes adapting language to reflect the many ways people may refer to this important human experience,” says Clara.

The word “chestfeeding” is a gender-neutral term, most often used by transmasculine and non-binary people. It is often used by individuals who feel terms such as “breastfeeding” do not match how they identify their anatomy. Chestfeeding may include the use of breast pump or a feeding tube attached to the nipple if lactation is not a possibility.

Those who prefer a semi-private, quieter space to breast or chestfeed are welcome to use one of two new designated breast/chestfeeding-friendly spaces located in the Grocery Foundation Resource Centre (GFRC) and by second floor reception in the West wing. Both spaces include specialty nursing chairs. The GFRC offers a comfortable glider chair with a high back for privacy, and planters with lush greenery as an additional privacy feature. Those using the second floor space have access to a wider nursing chair with armrests and a high back for privacy, and to accommodate various feeding positions. Each space also features a variety of artwork produced by Holland Bloorview families.

Adrienne Zarem, family leader at Holland Bloorview and working group member for this project, shares her hopes for the future and the impact of this initiative on families.

“Holland Bloorview goes to so many amazing lengths to live out its vision of the most meaningful and healthy futures for children, youth, and families,” says Adrienne. “I hope that this change will drive a culture shift and that breast/chestfeeding will be embraced, similar to how we embrace families to tube feed or orally feed their children. Our goal in launching the new semi-private spaces is to provide those who might not feel comfortable breast/chestfeeding in common spaces, the comfort to breast/chestfeed at the hospital without reservation.”

For more information, we’ve provided an FAQ available on our website. For further details on breastfeeding and chestfeeding laws and regulations in Ontario, please visit the Toronto Public Health website.