Breastfeeding

The Australian Government is committed to protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding throughout Australia.

Page last updated: 02 August 2019

Breastfeeding provides mothers and babies with many benefits and is a key contributor to lifelong health. Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants to around six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish.

Evidence shows that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from necrotising enterocolitis, diarrhoea, respiratory illness, middle ear infection, type 1 diabetes and childhood leukaemia. Available evidence also shows that breastfed babies have enhanced cognitive development.

Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by promoting faster recovery from childbirth, reducing the risks of breast and ovarian cancers in later life, increased birth spacing and reduced maternal depression. Breastfeeding also helps with mother-infant bonding.

Australian National Infant Feeding Survey statistics showed that in children aged 0-24 in Australia in 2010, 90% initiated exclusive breastfeeding. Only 15.4% of babies were exclusively breastfed to 5 months (that is, for less than 6 months).

Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond

On behalf of the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC), the Department of Health developed a high level strategy to incorporate recent research on effective strategies to support breastfeeding that are relevant to the current environment. The Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and beyond (the Strategy) seeks to provide an enabling environment for breastfeeding.

The Strategy was developed in collaboration with all states and territories through the Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Senior Officials Group (BJOG), a Breastfeeding Expert Reference Group, and through public consultation. All Health Ministers endorsed the Strategy on 8 March 2019.

The Strategy is available on the COAG Health Council website.

Reports on Stakeholder Consultation

Report 1: Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy- Report on Stakeholder Consolations- October 2017. This report summarises the finding from consultations which were undertaken in April and May 2017 to inform the development of an enduring National Breastfeeding Strategy.

PDF version: ANBS 2017 - Stakeholder Consultation Report (PDF 893 KB)
Word version: ANBS 2017 - Stakeholder Consultation Report (Word 3.0 MB)

Report 2: Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy- Report on Public Consultation – October 2018. This report presents the key themes from online public consultation on the draft Strategy from 22 May to 18 June 2018.

PDF Version: ANBS 2018 – Stakeholder Consultation Report (PDF 1.2 MB)
Word Version: ANBS 2018 – Stakeholder Consultation Report (Word 1.5 MB)

Evidence Check (Literature Review)

The Evidence Check, Review of effective strategies to promote breastfeeding, provides evidence that indicates the effectiveness of key strategies identified during stakeholder consultation in 2017. Review of effective strategies to promote breastfeeding

Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015

The previous breastfeeding strategy was developed following the 2007 Parliamentary Inquiry into the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding. It aimed to improve the health, nutrition and wellbeing of infants and young children, and the health and wellbeing of mothers, by protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding.

Implementation Plan

PDF version: Implementation Plan for the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (PDF 187 KB)
Word version: Implementation Plan for the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 (Word 160 KB)

Final Progress Report

PDF version: Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 201-2015 (PDF 193 KB)
Word version: Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 201-2015 (Word 85 KB)

Key national achievements from Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015

An outline of all achievements can be found in the final progress report, however some key achievements at the national level are presented here.

Donor Human Milk Banking in Australia

The need for a policy paper on milk banking in Australia was recognised in The Best Start: Report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breastfeeding, and subsequently by all jurisdictions in the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015. The Australian Government Department of Health prepared this paper based on inputs from the Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Senior Officials Group (BJOG), milk bank experts nominated by BJOG, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

PDF version: Donor Human Milk Banking in Australia - Issues and Background paper (PDF 627 KB)
Word version: Donor Human Milk Banking in Australia - Issues and Background paper (Word 53 KB)

Infant Feeding Survey

The 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey (ANIFS) was the first large-scale, Australian national survey of infant feeding practices and related attitudes and behaviours. Results from this survey showed most babies (96%) were initially breastfed, with 39% exclusively breastfed (meaning breastmilk had been the infant’s exclusive source of fluid) for less than 4 months and dropping to 15% for less than 6 months. However, 69% of babies were receiving any breastmilk at 4 months of age and 60% at 6 months.

National breastfeeding indicators

The reporting of breastfeeding results from both the ANIFS and Australian Health Survey was based on a draft set of national breastfeeding indicators published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in 2011.

National breastfeeding indicators: workshop report

ABA funding

At the national level, the Australian Government has funded the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) since 2008 to support the infrastructure required to allow volunteers to provide breastfeeding information and support services to more than 80,000 mothers each year. During the election, the Australian Government announced continued funding until 30 June 2023.

Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding

In November 2012, the Australian Health Ministers Conference meeting affirmed that all Australian jurisdictions support the effective, practical guidance provided by the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) and its ten steps to successful breastfeeding for health services. The Australian Health Ministers encouraged all public and private hospitals to implement the ten steps to successful breastfeeding and to work towards or to maintain their BFHI accreditation.

National Framework for Universal Child and Family Health Services

The National Framework for Universal Child and Family Health Services outlines the core services that all Australian children (from birth to eight years) and families should receive at no financial cost to themselves, regardless of where they live, and how and where they access their health care. The Framework was developed through a strong partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and the non-government sector.