“Because of breastfeeding's significant health advantages, increasing breastfeeding rates is a public health goal.”

National Strategic Plan of Action for Breastfeeding, 2008-2012

Importance of Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies under six months, and remains an excellent source of nutrition after the introduction of solids. It's good for mothers and their children, here's just a few reasons why:

  • The Ministry of Health recognises the importance of breastfeeding in achieving optimal health for the nation and has set targets to increase current breastfeeding rates.1 
  • The World Health Organisation recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively for the first six months and continue to be breastfed along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond. 
  • Breastfeeding has proven significant health and economic benefits for the child, the mother, business and society as a whole.2
  • Even in developed countries, babies who are NOT breastfed are significantly more likely to get sick, suffer more severe bouts of illness and recover more slowly than breastfed infants. The protective effects of breastfeeding extend into the early pre-school years and beyond.3 4 5 
  • Benefits to the child include reduced risk of infectious diseases such as meningitis, gastro-enteritis, respiratory and ear infections, reduced risk of food allergy and reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome. 
  • Benefits to mothers include reduced risk of breast cancer, and reduced risks of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and endometrial cancer later in life. 
  • Breastfeeding saves individual families money compared to the high cost of artificial formula and has a dramatic impact on the cost of infant health care observable in significantly lower hospitalisation rates, at all socioeconomic levels.5 6 
  • The economic value of breastmilk to the nation is significant and in Australia has been estimated to be $2.2 billion at current breastfeeding rates and over $5 billion at WHO recommended levels.3

References:
1 Ministry of Health Breastfeeding; a Guide to Action, Wellington 2002
2 Galtry, Judith, Farquhar, Sarah, Equal Employment Opportunities’ Contestable Fund Project Developing Breastfeeding-Friendly Childcare to Support Mothers in Paid Employment and Studying, April 2003
3 Smith, J. Mothers’ Milk and Markets. Australian Feminist Studies, 19 (45) 2004
4 American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding Policy of American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics. 100, 1997
5 Horta, B. Evidence on the long term effects of breastfeeding; systematic reviews and meta-analyses. WHO, Geneva 2007
6 Dept of Human Services Oregon http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/bf/working.shtml