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Māori breastfeeding practices under spotlight

Māori breastfeeding practices under spotlight in new book

The baby formula industry has been likened to the tobacco industry, for its serious effects on Māori health in a new book co-authored by a University of Auckland academic.

Dr Marewa Glover from the University’s School of Population Health contributed a chapter on Māori breastfeeding in a new resource book for researchers and health practitioners – Infant feeding practice: A cross-cultural perspective.

Dr Glover says the practice of breastfeeding has undergone a huge ideological shift since colonisation, resulting in fewer Māori women breastfeeding.

“The actual contribution of the artificial baby milk industry to Māori babies having the lowest rates of breastfeeding in New Zealand has yet to be studied, but traditional Māori infant care practices have been lost as the ‘benefits’ of western and modern practices have been sold to Māori mothers,” said Dr Glover.

“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates are higher and have been known to be higher for some decades, bedsharing and its attendant risks are more frequently seen for Māori, yet the knowledge and practice of Māori traditions by contemporary Māori mothers is poor.”

Dr Glover’s chapter looks at the growth of the baby formula industry in New Zealand, the destruction of Māori traditions, influences which divert Māori women from breastfeeding, and smoking as a significant barrier to breastfeeding.

The book also includes chapters from health experts in Asia, Africa, Europe, the US and the UK. It is currently available online.

ENDS

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