The National Breastfeeding Helpline Evaluation report


Page last updated: 13 February 2013

The National Breastfeeding Helpline (the Breastfeeding Helpline) provides information and support to mothers and their families. Funding for the Breastfeeding Helpline was committed to in the 2007 federal election. The service was consolidated as a national service and implemented in October 2008 through a toll free number and trained volunteer counsellors taking calls from their homes on a 24 hour, 7 day a week basis.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) manages and operates the National Breastfeeding Helpline and a number of complementary services including the ABA website and breastfeeding training for volunteer counsellors and health professionals. The ABA is a not for profit organisation.

The Commonwealth Government contributes to the infrastructure and operating costs of the National Breastfeeding Helpline. Approximately $3.8 million has been provided by the Department of Health and Ageing (the Department) over the four year period from 2008-09 to 2011-12. These funds are designed to facilitate access to breastfeeding information and support, including referrals. Specifically, funds support:

  • training and education of Breastfeeding Counsellors working on the Helpline and health professionals;
  • establishment and maintenance of Breastfeeding Helpline infrastructure; and
  • promotion of the Breastfeeding Helpline.
The objectives of the Breastfeeding Helpline are outlined in Box ES 1.1.

National Breastfeeding Helpline Objectives

The objectives of the National Breastfeeding Helpline are to:
  • support breastfeeding initiation and duration for breastfeeding women through trained volunteer counsellors;
  • improve national access and equity of access to quality factual information and advice, regardless of geographic location and with particular reference to population subgroups, including culturally and linguistically diverse communities, women with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, and teenage mothers; and
  • provide a 24 hour, nationally accessible Breastfeeding Helpline for women, partners and families seeking information and advice to support decision making in relation to breastfeeding.

Source: Department of Health and Ageing

The Breastfeeding Helpline is required to provide a service that targets breastfeeding mothers including the following groups:
  • teenage mothers;
  • mothers with a disability;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers; and
  • mothers with a culturally and linguistically diverse background.
The ABA reports to the Department of Health and Ageing on the performance of the Breastfeeding Helpline against six indicators that include measures of effectiveness and efficiency. Reports are provided on a monthly and quarterly basis. A total of 273,463 calls have been received since implementation of the Breastfeeding Helpline on 18 October 2008 to end March 2012.

National Breastfeeding Helpline Activity March 2012

For the month of March 2012, the Breastfeeding Helpline:
  • received 7,422 calls; of which
  • 67 per cent were answered within 5 minutes;
  • the average wait time before being connected to a counsellor was 129 seconds;
  • the number of calls lost (hang ups) totalled 1,933;
  • the number of volunteer counsellors staffing the Breastfeeding Helpline was 430.

Source: Based on ABA monthly Breastfeeding Helpline data.