Why is it important?:Breastfeeding is one of the most important health behaviours for promoting the survival, growth, development and health of infants and young children. Current guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and that breastfeeding be continued until 12 months of age and even beyond (NHMRC 2003).
Babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers have higher rates of infant mortality (see measure 1.19). Breastfeeding offers protection against many conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diarrhoea, respiratory infections, middle ear infections, and the development of diabetes in later life.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are also more likely to experience poorer physical development and a disproportionately high prevalence of illness and conditions such as poor dental health. The NHMRC guidelines recognise the protection that breastfeeding can provide against poor health outcomes in early childhood.
Findings:In 2004–05 breastfeeding rates for Indigenous children aged 0–3 years were lower (79%) than for non-Indigenous children aged 0–3 years (88%) in non-remote areas.
In the 2008 NATSISS breastfeeding status varied by remoteness, with a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged under 12 months being breastfed in remote areas (70%) than in non-remote areas (55%). A smaller proportion of children aged 0–3 years in remote areas had never been breastfed compared with children in non-remote areas (14% and 25% respectively).
In 2004–05 a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants (18%) than others (10%) were first given solid food within their first 3 months. By the time they reached 9 months, similar proportions of both groups had been given solid food regularly. In 2008 the proportion of Indigenous children first given solid food regularly within the first three months category dropped to 5% but rose to 43% in the 3–6 month category.
Implications:The NSFATSIH recognises that child and maternal health should be addressed both by health system interventions and through partnerships with other sectors. There are opportunities for the promotion of breastfeeding in educational settings and within the health sector, particularly in antenatal and post-natal care.
The Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010–2015 was endorsed by Health Ministers on 13 November 2009. The Strategy aims to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in Australia, and recognises the importance of breastfeeding support for priority groups. The implementation plan for the Breastfeeding Strategy includes an initiative to ‘promote breastfeeding within Indigenous Australian communities as a preventative health measure’.
Monitoring of breastfeeding practices should be undertaken in conjunction with measures 1.08 Diabetes, 1.12 Children’s hearing loss, 1.19 Infant mortality rate, 1.20 Perinatal mortality, 1.21 Sudden infant death syndrome and 3.01 Antenatal care.
Figure 128 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged less than 3 years and currently breastfeeding, by age and remoteness, 2008
Source: Source: ABS analysis of the 2008 NATSISS
Text description of figure 128 (TXT 1KB)
Figure 129 – Children in non-remote areas aged less than 3 years: age at which first given solid food regularly, by Indigenous status 2004–05
Source: ABS & AIHW analysis of 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey and 2004–05 National Health Survey
Text description of figure 129 (TXT 1KB)
Table 57 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years: Breastfeeding status by State/Territory, 2008
|Breastfeeding age range:|
|0 to < 6 months|
|6 months or more|
|Total children 0-3 years|
# estimates with a relative standard error greater than 50% are considered too unreliable for general use.
Source: ABS analysis of the 2008 NATSISS