Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015

1.1 Introduction

Page last updated: 15 July 2010

The aim of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy is to contribute to improving 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 and state and territory governments are committed to promoting the value of breastfeeding and improving breastfeeding rates in Australia. States and territories play a large role in delivering breastfeeding support and other services to new mothers, and in promoting the value of breastfeeding more widely.

A large body of Australian and international evidence shows that breastfeeding provides significant value to infants, mothers and society:

  • babies: breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from a range of serious illnesses and conditions such as gastroenteritis, respiratory illness and otitis media (AIHW 2009, NHMRC 2003);
  • mothers: breastfeeding promotes faster maternal recovery from childbirth and women who have breastfed have reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancers in later life (AIHW 2009, NHMRC 2003); and
  • society: protective effects of breastfeeding in infancy may extend to later life, with reduced risks of obesity and chronic disease (Horta et al. 2007). Breastfeeding may assist the bonding and attachment between mothers and babies. The Productivity Commission (2009) noted that several Australian and overseas studies estimated substantial hospitalisation costs associated with premature weaning because of the association with infant illness.
Breast milk is an environmentally friendly product and there are health risks and financial costs associated with not breastfeeding. This applies to developing countries and developed countries such as Australia. It is important to protect, promote and support breastfeeding at a population level and for those members of the community who are vulnerable to social and health disadvantage. Despite these considerations, about half of Australian babies are not receiving any breast milk by the time they reach six months of age (Baxter 2008).