Proportion of women initiating breastfeeding, by age and Indigenous identity, Canada, 2007-2010

Source: CICH graphic created using data adapted from Statistics Canada. Table 105-0512 – Health indicator profile, by Aboriginal identity, age group and sex, four year estimates, Canada, provinces and territories, occasional (rate). -accessed August 2, 2017.

In 2007-2010, 86% of First Nations women living off reserve, age 15 to 24 years, initiated breastfeeding.

That percentage was 81% for Métis women and 77% for Inuit women.

For non-Indigenous women the rate was 83%.

The rate of breastfeeding initiation for women 25 to 44 years was slightly less than the 15 to 24 age group for First Nations women living off reserve and Métis women.

However, the rate was higher for non-Indigenous women in the 25 to 44 year age group compared to the 15 to 24 age group.


Breastfeeding is a natural and nutritious way of feeding babies, and provides health benefits for both mother and baby. Research has shown that children who are breastfed have fewer respiratory tract and ear infections, diarrheal based illnesses, asthma, and early childhood caries,1 and may also have a protective effect against obesity.2 Breastfed off reserve First Nations children were found to have a lower prevalence of early childhood caries,1 as well as lower rates of asthma/chronic bronchitis and chronic ear infections.3 Encouraging breastfeeding is a way of reducing health issues in Indigenous babies.4

1Cidro, J., Zahayko, L., Lawrence, H.P., Folster, S., McGregor, M., & McKay, K. (2015). Breast feeding practices as cultural interventions for early childhood caries in Cree communities. BMC Oral Health, 15, 49.
2Gionet, L. (2013). Breastfeeding trends in Canada. Health at a Glance, November, 1-7.
3Badets, N., Hudon, T., & Wendt, M. (2017). Associations between breastfeeding and select chronic conditions among off-reserve First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, Catalogue 75-006-X.
4McIsaac, K.E., Moineddin, R., & Matheson, F.I. (2015). Breastfeeding as a means to prevent infant morbidity and mortality in Aboriginal Canadians: A population prevented fraction analysis. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 106(4), e217-e222.