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What is the story with breast feeding?

Posted by Dr Jamie Burt on 31 October 2014

Recommended guidelines:
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. National Health and Medical Research Council, Feb 2013, Dietary Guidelines for all Australians,

2.  National Health & Medical Research Council, April 2003, Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia incorporating the Infant Feeding Guidelines for Health Workers

3.Media Centre on Breast feeding
4. Resource doc
5. Australia Stats

6.Breastfeeding report card
7. Canadian Research
8. European Research
9. UK Research

Author: Dr Jamie Burt
About: Dr Jamie Burt was born and educated in Melbourne, attending the University of Melbourne and graduating with MBBS in 1998. He is a member of the Senior Medical Staff at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, and was Head of Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute until 2004. Known for his respectful, informative, and caring approach, Jamie has been caring for women with breast reduction concerns for over 15 years. During this time, one moment stands out as defining what he aims to achieve with The Breast Reduction Clinic.
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Tags: Breast Feeding

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