New Zealand's Unsung Breastfeeding Heroes
Breast really is best, says Plunket's National Nursing Advisor, Angela Baldwin, on the eve of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 1999). And tens of thousands of New Zealand breastfeeding mothers are little-heralded champions of early childhood nutrition.
She cautions that society still has to make a lot of progress to making New Zealand breastfeeding-friendly.
"New mothers can be put off because society doesn't uniformly encourage breastfeeding - it's still discouraged in many public places, including workplaces and restaurants.
"Yet it's the best thing a mother can do to give her baby a healthy start. Breast milk is the ideal baby food, and medical studies have proven, time and time again, that breast-fed children are healthier and at a greater advantage for learning."
She observes that breast milk is also easy for baby to digest, always ready at the right temperature and free of charge.
Plunket, New Zealand's leading well child organisation, works to support breastfeeding by supporting mothers via:
Plunket visits: in homes, and at Plunket clinics and family centres
Ante-natal education classes
Some Plunket nurses are also specially-trained lactation consultants
Collaborating with other breastfeeding and well child organisations
Plunket's 'Tots and Toddlers' education programme for high school students
Educating Plunket's staff and its 10,000 volunteers about the benefits of breastfeeding
Plunket encourages mothers to breastfeed exclusively until baby is age six months, after which complementary solids should be introduced, with breastfeeding continued. Although most babies are weaned fully onto solids at around the age of one year, some women choose to continue breastfeeding for several more years.
"Every mother's experience of breastfeeding is different," says Mrs Baldwin. "But the one thing that all breastfeeding mothers have in common is that they are giving their child a terrific head start in life."
Breastfeeding Fact Sheet
Babies need breast milk because:
Breastfeeding improves baby's brain development
It protects baby from illnesses that cause malnutrition, learning and hearing difficulties
It helps avoid many childhood conditions and diseases
Did you know? It's been proven that:
Breastfed babies achieve better at school
Special fatty acids in breast milk lead to increased IQ and better eyesight
Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, which have been associated with hearing loss and learning delays
'Breast is best' because:
It's much cheaper. It costs nothing, whereas bottle-feeding requires the purchase of equipment and formula. A breastfed baby tends to be healthier, saving money later on in doctors' bills and time taken off work by parents
It's convenient. No measuring, mixing or heating and it's always ready
It's free from germs and allergy-producing substances
It's easy for baby to digest
Breast milk changes to meet the changing needs of your baby as it grows
Barriers to breastfeeding:
Some workplaces and public places (e.g. restaurants, transport etc) discourage breastfeeding, or don't provide suitable facilities for it
Some health professionals wrongly believe that there are few if any significant differences between human milk and infant formula
Bottle-feeding is often portrayed - by TV programmes, advertisements etc - as the 'normal' way to feed baby
Breastfeeding in New Zealand - a thirsty business
Of the 55,000 or so mothers who give birth every year in New Zealand, around 90 per cent - about 49,500 - breastfeed, or attempt to breastfeed, their babies