Breastfeeding is established worldwide as a key public health measure that protects infant and maternal health thus reducing healthcare costs through decreased use of services. Breastfeeding promotes health, prevents disease and helps contribute to reducing health inequities. Global public health policy therefore recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, continued alongside solid foods for as long as mother and infant desire.
The recent launch of the National Breastfeeding Strategy for New Zealand Aotearoa Rautaki Whakamana Whāngote by the Ministry of Health (MoH) recognises that increasing the exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding is a key determinant of public health and is one of the most significant and cost-effective ways to improve equity and increase the health and wellbeing of a population. Further information from the MoH website and the National Breastfeeding Strategy for New Zealand Aotearoa states:
In New Zealand Aotearoa only between 17 and 22 percent of children are exclusively breastfed to around six months (Ministry of Social Development 2018). Rates of exclusive breastfeeding are consistently lower for Māori and Pacific people. Achieving ‘optimal infant feeding’ is a complex and multidimensional challenge that requires strong government leadership and coordination, and a holistic, whole-of-system approach. Improving breastfeeding rates in New Zealand Aotearoa will directly contribute to:
· achieving equitable health outcomes for Māori
· improving overall population health outcomes
· improving maternal and child mental wellbeing
· reducing health costs through prevention of illness
· sustainability and waste reduction
Breastfeeding touches on social, economic, educational, institutional, and political spheres and the recent release of the National Breastfeeding Strategy for New Zealand Aotearoa makes this a timely topic for sharing
of information and viewpoints.
Cara Hafner, RN, IBCLC
Baby Friendly Advisor and Coordinator
New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance