Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor to infant health. Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants to around six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish.
Evidence shows that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from digestive and respiratory illnesses, middle ear infection, type 1 diabetes and childhood leukaemia.
Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by promoting faster recovery from childbirth; reducing the risks of breast and ovarian cancers in later life, and reduced maternal depression.
Australian National Infant Feeding Survey statistics showed that although most babies (96%) in Australia in 2010 were initially breastfed:
- 39% were exclusively breastfed to around 4 months; and
- 15% were exclusively breastfed to 6 months, with nearly 21% predominantly breastfed to 6 months.
Enduring Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy
On behalf of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC), the Department of Health is developing a high level enduring strategy to incorporate recent research on effective strategies to support breastfeeding in Australia and to target key issues that are relevant to the current environment. A key focus of the enduring strategy will be addressing barriers to women establishing and maintaining breastfeeding.
An important step in the development of the enduring strategy will be collaboration with the states and territories through the Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Senior Officials Group (BJOG), and consultation with other key stakeholders through an Expert Reference Group, and more broadly through public consultation forums.
Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015
The previous breastfeeding strategy was developed following the 2007 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding. It aimed to improve the health, nutrition and wellbeing of infants and young children, and the health and wellbeing of mothers, by protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding.
The Australian Health Ministers Council (AHMC) endorsed the Strategy on 13 November 2009 and the implementation plan on 22 April 2010.
The implementation plan identified ten action areas based on the goals and objectives of the Strategy. The final progress report details the substantial progress made across all ten action areas of the implementation plan over the period of the Strategy. It was endorsed by the COAG Health Council in September 2016.
PDF version: Implementation Plan for the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (PDF 187 KB)
Word version: Implementation Plan for the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (Word 160 KB)
Final Progress Report
Key national achievements from Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015
An outline of all achievements can be found in the final progress report, however some key achievements at the national level are presented here.
Donor Human Milk Banking in Australia
The need for a policy paper on milk banking in Australia was recognised in The Best Start: Report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breastfeeding, and subsequently by all jurisdictions in the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015. The Australian Government Department of Health prepared this paper based on inputs from the Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Senior Officials Group (BJOG), milk bank experts nominated by BJOG, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Infant Feeding Survey
The 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey (ANIFS) was the first large-scale, Australian national survey of infant feeding practices and related attitudes and behaviours. Results from this survey showed most babies (96%) were initially breastfed, with 39% exclusively breastfed (meaning breastmilk had been the infant’s exclusive source of fluid) for less than 4 months and dropping to 15% for less than 6 months. However, 69% of babies were receiving any breastmilk at 4 months of age and 60% at 6 months.
National breastfeeding indicators
The reporting of breastfeeding results from both the ANIFS and Australian Health Survey was based on a draft set of national breastfeeding indicators published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2011.National breastfeeding indicators: workshop report
At the national level, the Australian Government has funded the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) since 2008 to support the infrastructure required to allow volunteers to provide breastfeeding information and support services to more than 80,000 mothers each year. The current funding is in place until 30 June 2019.
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
In November 2012, the Australian Health Ministers Conference meeting affirmed that all Australian jurisdictions support the effective, practical guidance provided by the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) and its ten steps to successful breastfeeding for health services. The Australian Health Ministers encouraged all public and private hospitals to implement the ten steps to successful breastfeeding and to work towards or to maintain their BFHI accreditation.
National Framework for Universal Child and Family Health Services
The National Framework for Universal Child and Family Health Services outlines the core services that all Australian children (from birth to eight years) and families should receive at no financial cost to themselves, regardless of where they live, and how and where they access their health care. The Framework was developed through a strong partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and the non-government sector.