National Women's Health Policy

Breastfeeding

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Breastfeeding is acknowledged as a key protective factor for both maternal and infant health.287 It gives the best nutritional start, provides immunological protection for infants and promotes infant bonding and attachment. Breastfeeding is associated with maternal health benefits such as promotion of recovery from childbirth and reduced risks for breast and ovarian cancer. The Australian dietary guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for infants until six months of age, with the introduction of solid foods at around six months and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months—and beyond if both mother and infant wish.288 While breastfeeding initiation rates in Australia were reported at around 92 per cent in 2004, full breastfeeding declined each month with only 56 per cent of infants fully breastfed at three months and 14 per cent at six months. The rates of any breastfeeding were around 73 per cent at three months, 56 per cent at six months and 30 per cent at 12 months.289

Younger, less educated and more socioeconomically disadvantaged Australian women are less likely to breastfeed.290