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La Leche greets guidelines with mixed feelings

Media release

22 May 2008

La Leche League greets updated infant feeding guidelines with mixed feelings

The release by the Ministry of Health of the updated Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers (Aged 0-2) has been met with a mixed response from La Leche League New Zealand”.

“We are delighted that the Ministry of Health is now recommending that the WHO Child Growth Standards be used to chart and assess growth. These will enable more reliable assessment of child growth patterns than the New Zealand growth references that they replace”, says Barbara Sturmfels, Director of La Leche League New Zealand.

“We are also delighted that the WHO-UNICEF global recommendation that babies be exclusively breastfed for six months has been adopted, replacing the previous advice to introduce solid foods between four and six months. That advice resulted in many babies being introduced to other foods before they were developmentally ready.

“However, we are surprised and disappointed that the guidelines do not adopt the second part of the global recommendation which is that infants continue to be breastfed for ‘up to two years of age or beyond’. The Ministry’s lesser recommendation, that infants be breastfed for ‘at least one year of age or beyond’, amounts to lack of official approval or encouragement to breastfeed beyond a year. The effect may be that mothers are not even made aware that breastfeeding their babies into toddlerhood and beyond is possible, let alone normal and beneficial. From La Leche League’s decades of experience supporting breastfeeding mothers and families, we know that children benefit enormously when the breastfeeding relationship is allowed to run its full course and mothers are not pressured to wean before they and their babies are ready.

“We do not accept the Ministry’s reasoning that ‘the current prevailing social climate does not support breastfeeding to beyond one year of age’. The publication of the new guidelines gave the Ministry the opportunity to lead the way in promoting acceptance of breastfeeding beyond infancy, a challenge it has regrettably shied away from.”

La Leche League is an international non-governmental not-for-profit non-sectarian organisation whose mission is to help mothers to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information and education; and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.

- ENDS –

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