30 Jan 2016

Breastfeeding mothers need more support

3:23 pm on 30 January 2016

A new study shows New Zealand has a higher rate of mothers who breastfeed compared to the UK, Canada and Australia.

Breastfeeding

Photo: 123rf

But a health expert says there is a worrying drop off in mothers breastfeeding after just a few days, due to a lack of support.

The study, published in British medical journal The Lancet suggests breastfeeding could globally prevent over 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year.

Massey University human nutrition lecturer Louise Brough said there was a sharp drop off in the number of women breastfeeding once they returned home from giving birth in hospital.

It was a transition where they also could no longer rely on nurses or midwives to help them.

"In New Zealand we have good initiation rates for breastfeeding, over 90 percent of women breastfed in the first few days after birth, however after this there is a drop off in breastfeeding when women leave the hospital."

Plunket's latest breastfeeding figures for 2014 show 65 percent of mothers breastfed their babies at six weeks compared to 25 percent at six months.

More services were needed to help women who found breastfeeding difficult, Dr Brough said.

"Midwives are excellent supporters of women but they cannot be there 24 hours so more wrap-around services are required to help women when they have difficulties.

"Also, many in New Zealand society thinks it's acceptable to breastfeed a small infant but are less comfortable with women breastfeeding a toddler, despite the fact that the WHO recommends women continue to breastfeed along with food until at least two years of age."

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