Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor to infant 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, and reduced maternal depression.
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
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.
The Strategy is currently going through the AHMAC clearance processes.
Reports on Stakeholder Consultation
Report 1: Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy- Report on Stakeholder Consolations- October 2017. This report summarises the finding form consolations 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.
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.
The Australian Health Ministers Council (AHMC) endorsed the Strategy on 13 November 2009 and the implementation plan on 22 April 2010.
The implementation plan identified ten action areas based on the goals and objectives of the Strategy. The final progress report details the substantial progress made across all ten action areas of the implementation plan over the period of the Strategy. It was endorsed by the COAG Health Council in September 2016.
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
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).
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
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. The current funding is in place until 30 June 2019.
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.