More Kiwi mothers breastfeeding

STCAYE KIRK
Last updated 15:58 30/07/2012
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20 YEAR HIGH: Figures show women are continuing to place high importance on breastfeeding their children.
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Breastfeeding rates in New Zealand have reached nearly a twenty-year high as figures released by Plunket show women are continuing to place high importance on breastfeeding their children.

According to the figures, 85 per cent of Plunket babies up to the age of six weeks are getting some breastfeeding milk - five per cent more than last year. Plunket represents about 90 per cent of babies born in New Zealand each year.

Next week is World Breastfeeding week, and Plunket said the research showed New Zealand's breastfeeding rates for the last financial year were the highest they had been in 19 years.

Plunket clinical advisor Marianne Grant said it was "great news" for New Zealand.

"Breastfeeding rates in New Zealand are definitely improving. Currently 85 per cent of babies up to the age of six weeks are getting some breast milk, a 5 per cent increase over the last 10 years. That may not sound all that big but it represents a significant number of babies", she said.

Plunket had been recording breastfeeding statistics for 90 years - since 1922.

Grant said the figures gave an invaluable look at the nutrition of New Zealand's most vulnerable generation and the increase was encouraging.

"It's a wonderful record to have - it gives us a really clear picture of breastfeeding trends in New Zealand for almost a century. 1968 and 1969 had the lowest rates - with just 47 per cent of babies up to the age of 6 weeks being breastfed - so significant strides have been made since then.

"Deciding to breastfeed your baby is one of the most positive steps you can take towards ensuring they get the best start in life. There are so many benefits for both mother and baby."

She said the goal was to have more babies being fed exclusively by breastfeeding for longer, with longer feeds.

"The support of the mother's partner and her family are known to be strong factors in whether - and for how long - she will breastfeed. Breastfeeding friendly workplaces and Paid Parental Leave are also key factors.  We all need to continue to provide mothers with supportive environments so they can breastfeed for longer."

The World Health Organisation recommends babies are fed only breast milk for the first six months. After six months it was recommended other foods be added to a baby's diet, with breastfeeding ideally continuing until the child reaches two years of age.

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