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Wairarapa is a ‘Baby friendly’ community

Media Release
From: Jill Stringer
Date: 3 December 2007

Subject: Wairarapa is a ‘Baby friendly’ community

Wairarapa is set to be the first community in New Zealand to be accredited as a ‘Baby friendly community’ by the New Zealand Breastfeeding Association. This initiative was designed to support mothers to fully breastfeed their babies for the first six months, as years of research has demonstrated both the short and lifelong benefits of this.

Breastfed babies are significantly less likely to have infant health problems and be overweight in later life. This is one of the reasons why the rate of breastfeeding is being monitored nationally as part of the fight against diabetes and obesity. Plunket and their army of volunteers collect the statistics for ‘Plunket babies’ in the Wairarapa, and have been one of many agencies battling to reverse the trend.

“Four years ago, we know we had a real problem,” says Esther Read, operations manager for Plunket. “Even by 6 weeks of age, more babies were being artificially fed than fully breast fed, and by six months the figure had sunk to 10% being fully breastfed. Over the last four years Wairarapa has turned the graphs around, with the help of all the agencies who support women and their babies.”

The percentage of babies exclusively or fully breastfed at 6 weeks has steadily risen from 47% in 2002/03 to 73% in 2006/07. The national target is 74%. At six months, the national target is 27%, and as at 30 June this year, the Wairarapa rate was 32%.

“Because of our poor statistics four years ago, Wairarapa DHB became one of 6 pilot sites for the Baby Friendly Community Initiative,” says Lisa Beech, Health Promoter from Wairarapa Public Health. “The Baby Friendly Community Initiative aims to increase the number of mothers in the Wairarapa exclusively breastfeeding to 6 months and to increase the proportion of babies being partially breastfeed beyond six months. My role is to encourage and work with health services in our community, using the Breast Feeding Authority’s seven point plan to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in our community.”

Lisa has been delighted with the way agencies and businesses have risen to the challenge. “The Masterton District Council has substantially improved breastfeeding facilities in the Bannister Street Rest Rooms, in the central Masterton shopping area,” says Lisa. “Some businesses now provide chairs in quiet corners for mums who need to give baby a quick top-up. All cafes in Wairarapa except one support mothers breastfeeding on their premises, and most display a small symbol in their window to show this.”

One of the most important parts of baby-friendly accreditation is ongoing education for health providers, so breastfeeding advice and support is consistent across Wairarapa.

Maori Health provider Whaiora Whanui has put much time and resource into improving breastfeeding rates for Maori women. They are active participants in the Baby Friendly Wairarapa initiative.

“We have the Tamariki Ora and Family Start programmes running hand in hand,” says Karen Metcalf- Morris, Manager Tamariki Services for Whaiora Whanui. “That means we get to spend quality one-to-one time with women before their baby is born, and can offer support after the birth too. It’s working together and having the time to act responsively to the needs of the mother that makes the difference. The statistics for fully breastfed babies of our clients have improved dramatically.”

“Wairarapa Baby Friendly is truly community collaboration,” says Lisa. “All our Baby Friendly services are involved. We have La Leche League, PAFT- Parents as First Teachers, Tamariki Ora, Family Start, Whaiora Whanui, Wairarapa Parent’s Centre, Te Peka O Ruamahunga, Maori Women’s Welfare League

and Plunket alworking together in surveying mothers, and participating in regular decision making meetings.”

“We look forward to being the first in New Zealand to be accredited as a Baby Friendly Community providing better services to pregnant women, new mothers, their infants and whanau,” Lisa says.


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