Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is natural for women and is the normal way of feeding infants. Breastfeeding, as with any new experience, takes time and practice to gain confidence and to develop skills.

Breastfeeding is recommended as the major source of food for babies until at least 6 months of age. It continues to be an important food for the first twelve months or more.

The most important part of breastfeeding is knowing how to get the baby onto your breast.

Points to remember:

  • a comfortable, well supported position will help you to relax
  • unwrap your baby and cuddle him/her against you, tummy to tummy, leaving no space between your body and the baby
  • put one of your baby’s arms above your breast and wrap the lower arm around your waist
  • have your baby’s mouth at the level of your nipple
  • your baby needs to have his/her mouth wide open in readiness for feeding. This can be achieved by holding your breast and rubbing it from the baby’s nose down over the lips turning his/her bottom lip out. When the baby’s mouth is open widely bring him/her quickly to the breast
  • the more often your baby feeds, the more milk you will make. Babies require extra feeding when having a growth spurt. Some days your baby will feed frequently and extra milk will be produced to meet your baby’s needs in the days and weeks ahead

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the mother and child. We know from research that a breastfed baby will receive greater protection against some bacterial infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, respiratory illness and some diseases later in life (such as juvenile diabetes and some cancers). We also know that children who were breastfed as babies show better cognitive performance.

Breastfeeding will help protect the mother against premenopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis. It’s also economical, convenient, safe and great for the environment.

Between 75% to 85% of Tasmanian mothers leave hospital breastfeeding. The recommended percentage of women breastfeeding on discharge from hospital should be closer to 90%. In Tasmania the number of women breastfeeding drops from rapidly in the first six weeks over the next 6 months. By 6 months of age it is recommended that 80% of women are at least partially breastfeeding their babies, and we know that approximately 44% do.

Reasons why women do not continue to breastfeed include*:

  • Breastfeeding is undervalued in our culture and artificial (bottle) feeding is widely promoted
  • Women who are not exposed to other women successfully breastfeeding do not often have the confidence to breastfeed themselves
  • Lack of knowledge, negative attitudes and beliefs (of mothers, partners and other support people) towards breastfeeding
  • A perception that it is not acceptable to breastfeed in public
  • Lack of available facilities for breastfeeding in public places and negative attitudes of some proprietors of businesses towards breastfeeding.

*thanks to the Central Coast NSW Breastfeeding Taskforce for this summary)

The Community Nutrition Unit is an active member of the Tasmanian Breastfeeding Coalition. The Coalition works together to improve the breastfeeding rates in Tasmania through a variety of promotion strategies. Projects include: The Tasmanian Businesses Supporting Breastfeeding project, the Breaking Down the Barriers campaign, the “Its OK to breastfeed anywhere campaign”, the Mums the Word peer education project, and a variety of other initiatives. For more information about the Tasmanian Breastfeeding Coalition and these projects go to www.breastfeedingtas.org

For more information about breastfeeding go to the Australian Breastfeeding Association website (www.breastfeeding.asn.au)