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Protect and encourage breastfeeding: Kedgley

17 June 2005
Protect and encourage breastfeeding: Kedgley

Too few New Zealand women are breastfeeding and more needs to be done to halt its worrying decline, says the Green Party.

Health and Women's Issues Spokesperson Sue Kedgley strongly supports the call for changes to protect and promote breastfeeding, including offering legal protection to mothers and ensuring workplaces make provision for it.

"There has been a steady decline in breastfeeding rates in New Zealand and it is a huge concern that only 23 percent of mothers now breastfeed their babies for the full four to six months recommended by the World Health Organisation," said Ms Kedgley, the Deputy Chair of the Health Select Committee that considered the petition of campaigner Elizabeth Weatherly.

"Some of the stories the committee heard of discrimination against mothers who breastfeed their babies in public places were horrifying. Because of society's attitudes many women still feel embarrassed and uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. Only major educational and legal initiatives will change this.

"It is indisputable that breast milk is the ideal nutrition for babies. It is also well established that it is good for bonding and brain development. Given this knowledge, we must do much more to change attitudes and encourage mothers to breastfeed."

Ms Kedgley said she was also concerned that New Zealand has not given regulatory force to the World Health Organisation's code of marketing for breast milk substitutes, which says infant formula should not be promoted as an alternative to mothers' milk.

"The voluntary self regulation approach is clearly not working and is being widely breached. If we are serious about encouraging breastfeeding, it's time to strengthen the code's implementation."


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