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Breastfeeding on the Increase in New Zealand

10 April 2006

Press Release: NZ College Of Midwives

New Zealand women are to be congratulated for the significant increase in breastfeeding rates.

The number of babies being exclusively breastfed1, for the first 6 weeks of their lives has increased by 6% since the year 2000, there's been an 8% increase in the number being exclusively breastfed from 10 weeks to 16 weeks of age and a 4% increase for those aged 16 weeks to 7 months.

New Zealand College of Midwives CEO, Karen Guilliland says the figures are good news for our babies, their mothers and families.

In this day and age where work pressures and family lifestyles can be so great, women should be congratulated for the fact that more of them are feeding babies exclusively breastmilk, and for longer.

"Research shows that if babies are exclusively breastfed then the duration of breastfeeding is increased and the benefits that breast milk gives are enhanced even further," she says.

Mrs Guilliland says mothers have increased their knowledge of breastfeeding, which has been assisted by the support of maternity specialists, like midwives and further facilitated by groups like Plunket.

Royal New Zealand Plunket Society General Manager of Clinical Services, Angela Baldwin, agrees and says there have been changes in society which may have supported the increase, including the impact of parental leave.

"Paid parental leave encourages women to stay at home for longer which allows new mothers more time to focus on breastfeeding with the support of their midwife and Plunket nurse," she says.

Karen Guilliland says the increase in breastfeeding rates has wider, positive implications for society as a whole.

"Breastmilk basically provides our babies with a boost to their immune systems. There are fewer illnesses and diseases in breastfed babies, which of course makes for a healthier society overall. For those mums who find they cannot breastfeed, part of our job as midwives is to provide the best information and support for each woman so that she can make her own decision."

Mrs Guilliland says the breastfeeding rate increases are heartening and encouraging news for the health of our babies.

Angela Baldwin believes the "baby friendly hospital initiative", which supports proactive practice around breastfeeding, has also made a real difference.

Both Angela Baldwin and Karen Guilliland say there's still room for improvement.

"We must continue to support research into breastfeeding and lactation, continue to inform society of the importance of breastfeeding and of course continue to provide support to parents and prospective parents," says Angela Baldwin.

"Our focus is the well-being and best outcomes for New Zealand women, their babies and families. These latest breastfeeding figures paint a positive picture as far as those aims are concerned and we will continue to work hard to further improve the breastfeeding rates," says Karen Guilliland.

1 Exclusive breastfeeding: The infant has never, to the mother's knowledge, had any water, formula or other liquid or solids food. Only breastmilk, from the breast or expressed, and prescribed medicines (as per the Medicines Act 1981) have been given from birth.

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