Healthy Eating Guideline

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended, with positive support, for babies up to six months. Continued breastfeeding is recommended for at least 12 months - and longer if the mother and baby wish.

Breastfeeding is the first food experience for most babies. Breastmilk has all the nutrients a baby needs, and is the only food required until about six months. Ideally, babies will continue to enjoy and benefit from breastfeeding until at least 12 months, or longer if the mother and baby wish.

In Australia, fewer babies are breastfed compared to other countries. For example, in 2007 only around 56 per cent of Australian babies were fully breastfed at three months, compared to 92 per cent in Norway.

Breastmilk - Perfect for babies

The benefits of breastfeeding for babies:
  • Breastmilk contains the appropriate nutrients for babies during each stage of their development.
  • Breastmilk helps to protect young babies from diseases, particularly gastro-intestinal, respiratory and middle-ear infections.
  • The sucking actions of breastfeeding help shape and prepare the jaw for teeth and speech.

Safe handling of breastmilk

Babies should only drink breastmilk that has come from their own mother. Therefore, it is important that a mother’s breastmilk is not given to another child. Your workplace has information on breastfeeding that you can give to mothers, explaining what they need to do with their breastmilk. This will also make mothers comfortable that their babies will be fed the right milk.

Cleaning bottles for babies

Bottles need to be sterilised, sanitised or disinfected to ensure that they do not carry any infections. This can be done with several different methods, including boiling, with an electric sterilising unit, through chemical sterilisation or with a microwave steriliser. Whichever method is chosen, be sure to always follow the instructions carefully.

Labelling and storage

  • Breastmilk should be brought to an early childhood setting:
    • in sterilised plastic bottles, and in an insulated container
    • labelled with the name of the child, and the date to be used.
  • Bottles should be placed in a non-spill tray on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. This is to make sure that if knocked or spilled, breastmilk does not drip onto other food.
  • Breastmilk that is not used on the day and is brought from home should be returned to the mother or discarded at the end of the day.

Heating breastmilk

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  • Babies can drink breastmilk straight from the refrigerator, however if a baby prefers warm milk:
  • Heat the milk by standing the bottle in warm water.
  • Always check the temperature of the milk before giving it to a baby.
  • Do not warm the milk in the microwave, as often this does not heat the milk evenly and can cause burns. Also, microwaving breastmilk may destroy some of its natural benefits.
  • Discard leftover breastmilk. This cannot be saved for later or rewarmed.

Protocols for breastmilk

When it is time to give a baby breastmilk from the fridge:
  • If more than one baby is receiving breastmilk at the setting, two staff members need to check that the name on the bottle is that of the baby about to be fed.
  • Sign the baby’s feeding record.
  • Offer the breastmilk in the sterilised plastic bottle or cup provided by the mother. Some families will choose to feed their babies with bottles, while others may choose to have the expressed breastmilk offered in a cup. Babies are usually ready to drink from a cup at around seven or eight months of age.
  • If a baby is given the milk of another mother, or if you think this might have happened, notify your director or manager immediately.

Congratulations for breastfeeding!

No matter how long a mother breastfeeds her baby, she should be recognised and respected for her effort. If a mother is moving her baby onto formula, make sure she has information on how to provide formula to early childhood settings.

How you can support breastfeeding

  • Let mothers know what your early childhood setting can offer to support breastfeeding, such as information sheets.
  • Let mothers know where they can get more information about breastfeeding.
  • Make mothers feel welcome to breastfeed in front of other people at the early childhood setting, or let them know where they can breastfeed in private if preferred.
  • If a mother indicates that she is having problems with, or tiring of, breastfeeding, offer her some support or provide options for advice elsewhere.
  • Offer positive feedback to mothers when they provide breastmilk for their babies. For example, ‘Great! She’ll enjoy that.’ or ‘He is doing very well.’
  • Follow your setting’s policy for the safe handling of breastmilk.
  • If mothers need further information, refer them to the Australian Breastfeeding Association – either the website,, or the breastfeeding helpline, 1800 MUM 2 MUM (1800 686 2 686).

Being a role model

Seeing another mother successfully breastfeed offers encouragement to new mothers. If you have previously breastfed or are currently breastfeeding you baby, let other new mothers know and offer them support. However, if a mother has chosen not to breastfeed, always respect her decision and do not offer comment or criticism.