During World Breastfeeding Week, 1–7 August 2023, NACCHO will be sharing a range information about breastfeeding as it relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families.
Breastfeeding is recognised globally as the optimal method for feeding infants because it is linked to the child’s survival, growth and development. Breast milk is uniquely suited to the needs of newborns, providing nutrients that are readily absorbed by their digestive system and conferring both active and passive immunity for two years and beyond.
Australia’s infant feeding guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until around six months of age when solid foods are introduced and continued breastfeeding until the age of 12 months and beyond at the discretion of the mother and child. ‘Exclusive breastfeeding’ means that the infant receives only breast milk (including expressed milk) and medicines (including oral rehydration solutions, vitamins and minerals), but no infant formula or non-human milk. For some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants living in poor housing conditions, breastfeeding offers additional protection where hygiene practices required for sterilising bottles may not be easily achieved or maintained.
Breastfeeding brings a range of health beneﬁts for both the infant and the mother. It enhances bonding and attachment between the mother and the baby, reduces infant deaths and protects children against illnesses and conditions, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), diarrhoea, respiratory infections, otitis media, overweight or obesity, diabetes and childhood leukaemia. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of hospitalisation for infants. Maternal health benefits include a reduction in the incidence of breast and ovarian cancer and reduced maternal depression.
You can read more about breastfeeding practices as a determinant of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website.