INDEPENDENT NEWS

King, Chadwick focus on breastfeeding rates

Published: Wed 20 Nov 2002 03:10 PM
King, Chadwick focus on improving breastfeeding rates
Health Minister Annette King and Health Select Committee Chair Steve Chadwick say today’s launch of a plan to improve breastfeeding rates focuses on the health of our future generations.
Ms King and Mrs Chadwick said while New Zealand's reported breastfeeding rates compare favourably with other OECD countries, there has been little or no improvement in breastfeeding rates in the past 10 years.
“Although two-thirds of our babies are fully breastfeeding at six weeks, by three months this has dropped to half. This drop-off rate is particularly high for Maori and Pacific babies,'' Ms King said.
“We need to do better for our babies. Breastmilk is the best food available for babies for all sorts of reasons, and that is why we want to encourage New Zealand mothers to breastfeed for as long as they can.''
Mrs Chadwick said Breastfeeding: A Guide to Action specifies the continuing monitoring and strengthening of breastfeeding promotion and support.
In particular it calls for the provision of consistent, up-to-date breastfeeding information from providers, and a nationwide focus on achieving accredited baby friendly hospitals.
Three units - Birthcare Parnell, Christchurch Women's Hospital and Palmerston North Women's Health Unit - are the first in the country to achieve baby friendly hospital status.
Mrs Chadwick said the WHO-UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospitals Initiative (BFHI) has already been implemented in more than 15,000 hospitals in 136 countries, and the accreditation for the three units put New Zealand on the BFHI world map.
“Many people have worked hard to help these hospitals achieve baby friendly status, and I am sure this dedication will also have a positive influence on the other maternity facilities around the country,” said Mrs Chadwick.
“The challenge now is for all 85 maternity hospitals to become baby friendly. We know there are many factors that affect a woman's decision to breastfeed, but providing the right environment to help mothers feel comfortable about giving their babies the best possible start in life is extremely important.''
Mrs Chadwick said that a crucial element for improving breastfeeding was the relationship between the professionals involved with encouraging, supporting and advising women.
“Their ability to network well and positively support each other will flow on to allow consistent and seamless care for New Zealand mothers and their babies,'' she said.
“This continued co-operation and collaboration, alongside all of the action points highlighted in the plan, will, I am sure, result in the outcome expected from this action plan - an overall improvement in the breastfeeding rates of Maori and Pacific peoples, and an overall increase in the breastfeeding rate of other New Zealand women. This is what drives us all and we are thrilled to have a plan to work to at last.''
The new recommended breastfeeding targets are: By 2005, 74 percent of all babies to be exclusively and fully breastfed at six weeks (the current rate is 65.6 percent), 57 percent at three months (50.9 percent) and 22 percent at six months. By 2010 the targets are 90 percent of all babies to be breastfeeding at six weeks, 70 percent at three months and 25 percent at six months.
Ms King noted there was plenty of international evidence that confirms breastfeeding will contribute positively to five of the 13 population health objectives in the New Zealand Health Strategy.
These are: improving nutrition, reducing obesity, reducing the incidence and impact of cancer, reducing the incidence and impact of cardiovascular disease and reducing the incidence and impact of diabetes.
Breastfeeding: A Guide To Action is available on the Ministry of Health website: http:// http://www.moh.govt.nz.
Background
The nutritional benefits of breastmilk: It meets the full term baby's complete nutritional needs for the first four to six months of life It is readily available with no heating required It has low risk of bacterial contamination It is low cost There is less risk of over or under feeding It contains optimal ratios of the fatty acids required for eye and brain development The nutrients in human milk are more bio-available than in infant formula.
Other benefits for the baby include: Reducing the risk of infectious disease such as meningitis, gastroenteritis, respiratory and ear infections because it contains maternal antibodies Reduces the risk of food allergy.
Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother are that it: Speeds up the contraction of the uterus back to its normal size after birth Provides emotional and physical satisfaction to the mother and may help the mother to return to her pre-pregnancy weight Does not require preparation or storage Exclusive, on-demand breastfeeding may help to space pregnancies Reduces the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a joint United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) project launched in 1992 and is aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates and encouraging global breastfeeding standards for maternity services. The project sets out to encourage hospitals and health care facilities - particularly maternity wards - to adopt practices that fully protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding from birth.
There is already evidence to suggest that implementation of the 'Ten steps to successful breastfeeding' of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative leads to an increase in breastfeeding rates. According to a survey by UNICEF, UK Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative hospitals increase their breastfeeding rate by more than 10 percent in four years when they receive a Baby Friendly Award.
The Ministry of Health toolkit for District Health Boards (DHBs) 'Improve Nutrition', requires DHBs to ensure that all maternity facilities are promoting breastfeeding, are working towards meeting the criteria for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and to have a plan and timeline for becoming accredited.
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (WHO-UNICEF)
The WHO-UNICEF "Ten Steps of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative" to promote successful breastfeeding are:
1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff 2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy 3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding 4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour of birth 5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants 6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated 7. Practice rooming in: allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day 8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand 9. Give no artificial teat or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants 10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from hospitals or clinics.

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