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World Breastfeeding Week

1 August 2017
World Breastfeeding Week

Breastfeeding rates in New Zealand are increasing slowly, according to Plunket data released during World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August).
Plunket says in 2015 and in 2016, 87.5% of babies aged between 2 and 6 weeks received breast milk, a figure 1.5% higher than in 2013 and 2014.
Plunket is encouraged that the numbers are stable and continuing to increase slowly. However, the statistics also show the rate of any breastfeeding at 12 weeks is consistently lower than the rate at 6 weeks. In 2016, 78% of babies aged 12 weeks received some breast milk.

The rate of babies at 12 weeks fed breast milk only are increasingly slowly year-on-year, but are also consistently around 10% lower than the rate at 6 weeks. Plunket says it would like to see more steps forward from the whole community to create a society that supports breastfeeding.

“We're encouraged that overall the breastfeeding rates are steadily increasing, and we are always aiming to support more mums to breastfeed. Breastfeeding helps protect your baby against colds, tummy bugs, infections, and allergies, as well as helping your baby feel safe and secure. The high proportion of mums breastfeeding when their babies are very young is great, as this helps give their baby the best start in life,” said Karen Magrath, Plunket National Well Child Advisor.
“Babies and mums get the greatest benefits from breastfeeding when babies are fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life, and we would like to see those high rates in the first weeks sustained for longer.”
She said more support for mums to continue to breastfeed could make a difference: “Some degree of decline is to be expected. However the high rates initially indicate mums want to breastfeed but stop because of barriers and challenges they experience, particularly when they return to work. We congratulate the government for moving to extend parental leave from 16 to 18 weeks, and legislation around support of breast feeding in the workplace. These are important steps in the right direction. The evidence indicates that we need to go further - extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks is linked to mums breastfeeding for longer.”
She said other challenges for working breastfeeding mothers include working at night, manual occupations, access to childcare close to their workplace, and a lack of support in workplace.
Plunket says the health benefits of breastfeeding are so significant that greater investment in support services to help mums breastfeed would be a significant investment in improving children’s health outcomes.
“Breastfeeding is a skill that requires learning for both mother and baby. There is support available for mums, such as PlunketLine (0800 933 922) available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Mums can get in touch with La Leche, their local Plunket nurse or visit a Plunket family centre, where staff and other mums can offer support and information in a friendly and relaxed environment. Along with direct support, it’s also about creating a supportive environment, which is why the Baby Friendly Community Initiative led by New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance, and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative are so important.”

About breastfeeding
• Breast milk is the perfect food for infants and provides babies with all the nutrition they need for healthy growth and development. It’s the original fast food - it’s always fresh and delivered at the right temperature plus it’s free and readily available.
• Plunket supports the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation that babies are fed only breast milk for the first six months. After six months other foods can be added to a baby’s diet, but breast milk remains the ideal milk drink for children up to two years and beyond
• Plunket’s goal is to see more babies being exclusively breastfed for longer and extending the duration of breastfeeding. In order for this to happen breastfeeding mothers need a supportive environment.
• The support of the mum’s partner and her family are known to be strong factors in whether - and for how long - she will breastfeed.
• Breastfeeding friendly workplaces are another key factor. We all need to continue to support women in all situations so they can breastfeed for longer.
• By providing mothers with a supportive environment, we are helping to break down the barriers that many new mothers face when choosing to breastfeed.
• For more about breastfeeding visit or and
Breastfeeding rates

6 weeks (core visit 1)3 months (core visit 3)6 months (core visit 4)
Year (Jan-Dec)Received breast milkReceived breast milkReceived breast milk


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