A Whangarei paediatrician says young Maori mothers need more encouragement and community support to breast-feed their babies.
Roger Tuck says breast-feeding is the best protection available against the infectious diseases that see large numbers of young Maori children hospitalised.
Dr Tuck says half of all births at Whangarei hospital are to Maori mothers and almost all of them are fully breast-feeding their babies when they go home.
However, he says some give up because they have no whanau to support them.
Dr Tuck says the problem is that once they are home, many younger and more isolated mothers can't find the support and advice they need to continue.
Support for young mums
Funding from the Government's healthy eating, healthy action project is supporting young Maori mothers wanting to breast-feed.
Breast-feeding rates for newborns have doubled in Whangarei since Northland Health launched its baby-friendly hospital programme.
Mary McEwen, a Maori midwife and registered nurse, says the funding has allowed her to offer pre-natal education about breast-feeding at marae clinics and a seven-day-a-week support and advice service by lactation consultants.
She has also started a coffee group for Maori mothers.
Ms McEwen believes breast-feeding is better for the child and a family's finances as it costs $2000 a year to feed a baby using formula.