What is the story with breast feeding?
In Australia there are two organisations who have issued widely accepted breast feeding guidelines. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (1,2) recommends exclusive breast feeding for babies for 6 months then breast feeding continuing along with the introduction of solid and other liquid foods until 1-2 years of age.
The World Health Organisation (3) also recommends exclusive breast feeding for babies up to 6 months of age and then continued breast feeding along with solid foods for 2 years.
Exclusive breast feeding means babies are receiving only breast milk (no other liquids or solid foods or water are given).This can include expressed breast milk stored and given to your baby at a later date. (This is really relevant once you are back at work).
So how are we doing (4,5)
The Australian statistics suggest most new mothers have a try at breast feeding ( 96%) but exclusive breast feeding rates drop off quickly. Only 39 % of babies are being exclusively breast fed by 4 months and only 15% at 6 months.
A larger percentage of children are having some breast milk supplemented by alternative nutritional sources. (74% of babies to 3 months are getting some breast milk, 50% of babies at 6 months, and 30% babies 6 to 9 months are receiving some breast milk but are not exclusively breast fed).
How do we compare to overseas?
The Australian experience seems to be similar to the experience in the USA. (6)
In Canada their government research study in 2011 suggested 26% of mothers breast fed exclusively for 6 months. (7)
The WHO study of European countries running from 2005-2010 suggested in 22 out of 26 countries participating approximately 50% of babies were exclusively breast feeding at 3months.(8)
In the UK the 2010 survey found exclusive breast feeding rates of 17%, at 4 months 12% and at 6months 1%.( These findings were an increase on rates observed in previous studies). (9)
Links to research
1. - 4. & 9 no longer available