Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015

2.2 Global comparisons

Page last updated: 15 July 2010

Breastfeeding initiation rates in most member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are high (see Figure 2.3). However, the proportion of children being breastfed declines more or less rapidly with age. On average, almost half of all infants aged three months are being exclusively breastfed in OECD countries. At six months old, less than a quarter are exclusively breastfed (see Figure 2.4).

Figure 2.3
Graph showing the proportion of childred who were 'ever breastfed' between 1999-2007.

Source: OECD (2009a)

Australia compares reasonably favourably with other OECD countries in regard to breastfeeding initiation and breastfeeding at three months. However, the continuation rate, particularly at six months, appears to lag behind other OECD countries (see Figure 2.4).

These data should be viewed with caution, as the extent to which national survey data obtained by the OECD are directly comparable is unclear. The data were obtained by the OECD from national health institutes or surveys that took place between 1994 and 2007. There are often variations between breastfeeding definitions and survey methodologies. For example, the Australian data included in the OECD comparison are from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children referred to previously which measured full rather than exclusive breastfeeding. Surveys often measure breast milk and other food intake in the previous 24 hours rather than from birth (Binns et al. 2009). It is also noted that exclusive breastfeeding ‘at’ six months is not a stable indicator because this is around the time recommended for starting solid foods (DHS 2006).

Figure 2.4
Graph showing the proportion of childred who were exclusively breastfed at 3, 4 and 6 months old between 1994-2007.

Source: OECD (2009a)