Australian First Initiative Encourages Breastfeeding

Friday, 19 February 2016
A new initiative believed to be an Australian-first is encouraging more Portland district mothers to breastfeed.

Portland District Health (PDH) is offering to pay for mothers and their partner or support person to attend an Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) breastfeeding class in Portland when they register to give birth at PDH.

It is believed this is the first time in Australia that a hospital has paid for local mothers to attend the classes.

PDH midwifery coordinator Colleen Hanmer said the health service wanted to highlight the health benefits and encourage women to increase and prolong breastfeeding.

PDH believes this is important so we're leading by example to promote the best service and support to local women and the health benefits to mothers and children, Ms Hanmer said.

ABA CEO Rebecca Naylor said she was impressed by the PDH initiative and hoped others hospitals followed the example.

We believe this is the first time in Australia that a hospital has paid for its community members to do our nationally-delivered breastfeeding class, also connecting them into the Australian Breastfeeding Associations great support network, Ms Naylor said.

The breastfeeding class costs up to $90 for each mum, with the class including one years Australian Breastfeeding Association membership.

So far four women have been offered the support of ABA when registering with PDH midwives, and all have accepted PDH's payment of ABA membership, entitling them to education classes with their partners or support people.

We urge all expectant mothers to talk to their midwife as early as possible about the supports that are available to them,Ms Hanmer said.

Some have already taken up the option of education classes.

All women intending to birth in Portland are being encouraged by their midwife and ABA to start planning for breastfeeding at about 17 weeks, coinciding with their first antenatal.

The move follows the development of a breastfeeding action plan in 2015 as an initiative of the SEA Change program. Partners in the plan include PDH Midwifery, Glenelg Shire Council Child and Maternal Health, DWECH and ABA Portland Group.

One of the actions in the plan is to create supportive environments which encourage breastfeeding. ABA Portland Group spokeswoman Angela McFeeters said breastfeeding is a learned skill. Information gained about breastfeeding during pregnancy, delivered in a supportive environment, helps a woman to be aware of challenges she might face and gives her strategies to deal with them, Ms McFeeters said.

If mums are prepared for breastfeeding before their baby is born, and know all the resources out there to turn to if problems arise, they will have a much greater chance of succeeding.

Ms Hanmer said although 96 per cent of babies in Australia were initially breastfed, only 39 per cent were exclusively breastfed to about four months; and only 15 per cent were breastfed to the recommended six months.

Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor to infant health, Ms Hanmer said.

Australia's Dietary Guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until six months, with the introduction of solid foods around six months and continued breastfeeding until 12 months and beyond, if both mother and infant wish.

Evidence shows that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from gastroenteritis, respiratory illness and middle ear infection, Ms Hanmer said. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by promoting faster recovery from childbirth; and reducing the risks of breast and ovarian cancers in later life.

Increasing breastfeeding rates will save taxpayers millions of dollars in reduced hospital and medical practitioner visits.

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