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Visiting WHO expert promotes breastfeeding

16 October 2000

Visiting WHO expert promotes breastfeeding

THE Ministry of Health is bringing World Health Organization (WHO) expert James Akre to New Zealand to talk to health professionals about breastfeeding. Mr Akre will work with the New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority in a series of seminars in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland from 18 to 24 October.

"Breastfeeding is the best way to provide all the nutrients a child needs for the first four to six months," Mr Akre said. "Protection, promotion and support for breastfeeding is fundamental to achieving optimum health for people in any country."

Currently in New Zealand, 50 percent of babies at three months of age are fully breastfed. At six months of age, 60 percent of babies are still being partially or fully breastfed.

"Many myths have developed over the years around the acceptability and perceived difficulties of breastfeeding. The more support and information people have about breastfeeding, the better. Countries should work to reinforce a supportive breastfeeding culture by eliminating obstacles to breastfeeding in the healthcare system, workplaces and the wider community," Mr Akre said.

New Zealand efforts to support and protect breastfeeding include implementing the WHO Code which monitors the marketing and distribution practices of infant formula companies and health workers, ensuring that the most up-to-date information on child feeding practices in the first two years of life is readily available, developing and implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, as well as the ongoing support of health workers, including voluntary organisations.

"Breast milk completely meets a full-term infant's nutritional needs for up to the first four to six months of life. It is the most economical way to feed an infant, it has the right amount of nutrients, it reduces infection and it's known to boost a baby's immunity. Breastfeeding also has biological and emotional benefits for both the mother and baby," Mr Akre said.

Mr Akre has 27 years' experience with agencies in the United Nations system and is currently based in Geneva. His current position with the WHO covers the spectrum of human nutrition activities, in collaboration with WHO's nutritionists, scientists and experts, with special emphasis on infant and young child feeding.

Background information

The Ministry of Health is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders and reducing disparities in health status between Maori, Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders through well-allocated funding and relevant and responsive advice. The Ministry of Health's key roles are to: manage all aspects of health and disability policy advice monitor standards and performance and enforce regulation and auditing report regularly on health status throughout New Zealand fund the health and disability sector manage relationships between the Ministry of Health, the Minister of Health and in future District Health Boards.

The World Health Organization was founded in 1948 and is a specialised agency of the United Nations. WHO promotes technical cooperation for health among nations, carries out programmes to control and eradicate disease and strives to improve the quality of human life. WHO has four main functions: to give worldwide guidance in the field of health to set global standards for health to cooperate with governments in strengthening national health programmes to develop and transfer appropriate health technology, information and standards.

WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first four to six months of life and that they should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods after that, while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond, in order to meet their evolving nutritional requirements.

The New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority represents agencies with a key interest in breastfeeding and has been established to implement the joint UNICEF and WHO Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. To be recognised as baby-friendly, a hospital must:

Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.

Train all staff in skills necessary to implement the written policy.

Inform all pregnant women about the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.

Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.

Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.

Practice rooming-in, allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

Give no artificial teats or pacifiers.

Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mother to them on discharge from hospital or clinic.


If you would like to interview Mr Akre, please contact Angus Barclay, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2182

For more information contact: Angus Barclay, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2182 Internet address:

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