The World Health Organization recommends exclusive* breastfeeding for babies to 6 months of age, and thereafter for breastfeeding to continue alongside suitable complementary foods for up to 2 years and beyond.1
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around 6 months and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside complementary food until 12 months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire.2
Australian breastfeeding statistics indicate we are falling well short of the above recommendations. Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey3 results indicate that 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding. Thereafter, exclusive breastfeeding rates drop off. Less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months (less than 4 months) and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months (less than 6 months).
Thereafter, statistics fromThe 2006-2007 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 4 study show that at 12 months, 28% of children were still being breastfed; at 18 months, 9% of children; and at 24 months, 5% were still being breastfed.
*Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby receives only breastmilk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of an oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines.5
1. World Health Organization statement 2011, Exclusive breastfeeding for six months best for babies everywhere, Geneva: World Health Organization. URL: www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2011/breastfeeding_20110115/en/index.html Accessed 30/7/13
2. National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant Feeding Guidelines, Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council URL: www.eatforhealth.gov.au Accessed 30/7/13
3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011, 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey: Indicator Results. Canberra: AIHW. URL: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737420927 Accessed 30/7/13
4. Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) 2008, Growing Up In Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, Annual Report 2006-07; URL: www.aifs.gov.au/growingup/pubs/ar/ar200607/breastfeeding (accessed 30/7/13).
5. World Health Organization 2012, Breastfeeding – exclusive breastfeeding, Geneva: World Health Organization. URL: www.who.int/elena/titles/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/ Accessed 30/7/13