April 14, 2008
Report into the health benefits of breastfeeding
In August 2007, the Standing Committee on Health and Aging from the House of Representatives released its report The Best Start: Report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breast feeding. The purpose of the inquiry was to report on how the Commonwealth Government could take a lead role in improving the health of Australians by supporting breast feeding.
Breast milk is the ideal food for infants and provides the best start in life. While 83% of mothers breast feed in hospital, rates fall to 48% at six months and 23% at 12 months. The report looked at the reasons for this fall and made recommendations as to how rates of initiation could be increased and the decline arrested.
Some of the Committee’s 22 recommendations are:-
- Implementation of a national strategy to support and promote breastfeeding co-ordinated by the Department of Health and Aging
- Government research funding into the long term health benefits of breast feeding to mother and baby and evaluation of strategies to increase rates of exclusive breastfeeding to six months
- Government funding of the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s (ABA) breast feeding helpline
- Investigating the establishment of breast milk banks across Australia
- Adopting the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in place of the current Australian Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula (MAIF) Agreement
- Changing Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) labelling requirements for foods for infants (Standard 2.9.2) to be in line with Dietary Guidelines which recommend infants be exclusively breast fed for 6 months. This is currently being reviewed by FSANZ.
The full report, including all submissions and transcripts of proceedings can be downloaded from http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/haa/breastfeeding/report.htm
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