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Mothers’ Day 2018 Message - Breast Feeding Protects Mums Too

9th May 2018

Mothers’ Day 2018 Message - Breast Feeding Protects Mums Too

Experts hope a simple message about the risk of breast and ovarian cancers will raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and breastfeeding duration for new mothers.

The Early Life Nutrition Coalition, a subcommittee of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) is using Mother’s Day to highlight that while the health benefits of mother’s milk for the newborn child are increasingly understood, many women are unaware of the protective effect of breastfeeding may have on two common cancers effecting New Zealand women.

Early Life Nutrition Coalition New Zealand spokesperson, Dr Clare Wall says breastfeeding has never been more important – both for the mother’s long-term health and for the development of her child’s defences against disease in later life.

Current research reveals the cancer-protecting effect of sustained breastfeeding.

• Women who breastfeed for 12 months reduce their risk of some breast cancers by 26 per cent. This compares to just a 7 per cent reduction if breastfeeding stops at six months.
• Women who breastfeed for 12 months reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 37 per cent. This compares to just a 17 per cent reduction if breastfeeding stops at six months.

Dr Wall says: “The message on Mother’s Day is simple – breastfeeding is good for mums and babies and the longer they breastfeed after the introduction of complementary foods there may be less risk of developing some types of breast and ovarian cancers.

“Sustained breastfeeding after the introduction of solid foods appears to be the key. It’s perfectly fine to supplement with formula if this allows the mother to keep breastfeeding for longer.

“More research is needed to establish if breastfeeding a second or third child provides cumulative benefit against cancer risk.”

Dr Wall says: “Cancer is a national health priority, and so there should be strategies to increase the rate and duration of breastfeeding. Breast milk is truly amazing and breastfeeding has never been more important as a preventative health measure for Mum and baby.”

New Zealand women initiate breastfeeding at high rates, but stop early.

Dr Wall says: “New Zealand has great breastfeeding initiation rates, however despite great intentions many infants are not breastfed exclusively to six months, with even fewer babies being fed breast milk12 months. There are significant benefits to mothers own health by breast feeding beyond 6 months."

Ever increasing rates of obesity and allergy may be linked to the decline in the duration of breastfeeding
• Research confirms that breastfed babies are less likely to develop obesity in later life than those raised on infant formula and the risk is reduced most in those babies that are breast fed for longer. Receiving any breast milk seems to be the key.
• Breastfed babies are at reduced risk of allergy, notably food allergies and eczema, than those fed with formula.
• The child’s risk of acute middle ear infection can be reduced through breastfeeding for 12 months.

Dr Wall concludes: “Breast remains best in 2018. The Early Life Nutrition Coalition’s challenge is how best to support mothers and families to get more of these newborns breastfed for longer.”

About the Early Life Nutrition Coalition

“Much of what we say to expectant parents is focused on what not to do while pregnant,” says ELN Coalition Member Dr Clare Wall.

“We’re trying to focus on the positive steps that can be taken. There is a huge opportunity to ensure future generations are getting the best possible start to a healthy and long life,” she says.

“It is the ELN Coalition’s aim to promote actions that can be taken during this critical window of opportunity. While the ELN Coalition would like to facilitate behaviour change in some areas, our aim is to reinforce the positive steps parents can take to enhance the future health of generations to come,” she added.

The New Zealand Health Survey 2016/17 found that:
• around 1 in 8 children (aged 2–14 years) were obese (12%)
• a further 21% were children were overweight but not obese
• 18% of Māori children were obese
• 29% of Pacific children were obese
• children living in the most deprived areas were 2.5 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas[1]
• the child obesity rate increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 12% in 2016/17.

Founding members of the Early Life Nutrition Coalition (@EarlyLifeHealth #EarlyLifeHealth #ELNCoalition), which is a sub-committee of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand, include: Australian Diabetes Educators Association; Australian Diabetes Society; Caring and Living as Neighbours; The Children’s Nutrition Research Centre, University of Queensland; Danone Early Life Nutrition; Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Society; Dietitians Society of Australia; Healthy Start Workforce Project; The Liggins Institute; Menzies Institute for Medical Research; Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Pharmaceutical Society of Australia; United Way Australia; and the University of Auckland.


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