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Breastfeeding


Indicator description

The proportion of infants being breastfed in the ACT who attend Maternal and Child Health clinics for their immunisations.

What do we measure?

In 2009, ACT Health implemented a simple data collection for babies presenting for immunisation at Child Health Immunisation Clinics at two, four, six and 12 months of age. During the immunisation encounter, the carers were asked to indicate whether the infant was still breastfeeding through a simple 'yes' or 'no' response. The purpose of this collection was to create a picture of the proportion of infants being breastfed in the ACT, and to identify opportunities to improve the breastfeeding rate among women and infants in the ACT.

Due to the success of this trial, in 2011 the data collection was refined and carers were asked at the Child Health Immunisation Clinics about exclusive breastfeeding,* if the infant was receiving any breast milk and introduction of solids to their infant's diet. These questions are in line with nationally agreed indicators to allow better interpretation on how the ACT is tracking in regards to breastfeeding.

* Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as infants who receive only breast milk (including expressed breast milk and, where required, medicines), but no infant formula or non-human milk.8

Why is this important?

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends 'that infants be exclusively breastfed until around six months of age when solid foods are introduced. It is further recommended that breastfeeding be continued until twelve months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire'.9

It is well-established that breastfeeding provides significant public health benefits. It provides benefits to infants including reduced risk of infection, asthma and atopic disease and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding also contributes to infants' improved cognitive development and protects against obesity, high blood pressure and some chronic diseases in later life.10

Policy Context

Maternal and Child Health (MACH) nurses are committed to providing an environment that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding as the optimal way for a woman to feed her baby. MACH services are offered to 100 per cent of the ACT population and include an intake service and initial home visit following discharge from acute maternity services. A restructure of MACH services in 2017 and the introduction of an electronic referral system saw the universal first home visit prioritised, and women experiencing breast feeding difficulties are provided with early assistance and support from MACH.

The MACH service encourages breastfeeding education beyond the postgraduate qualification in Child and Family Health Nursing. MACH nurses complete an initial breastfeeding eLearning program and many are supported to complete lactation courses, with some nurses becoming International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. This professional development, and the inclusion of Midwives in home visiting and early service provision, has increased and enhanced early breastfeeding support for families in the first six weeks.

The availability of Early Days groups has been increased. These drop-in groups focus on sleeping and feeding concerns for parents with babies up to three months of age. There is capacity for the nurses to follow up individual clients after the group who may require additional one-on-one support.

How is the ACT progressing?

Table 5: Exclusive breastfeeding (%), infants presenting at ACT MACH immunisation clinics, by age (completed calendar months), 2011-12 to 2016-17

 

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

1 month

65

63

64

65

68

68

2 months

66

64

65

64

66

65

3 months

56

59

52

40

28

47

4 months

51

51

53

52

57

56

5 months

48

41

46

51

59

49

6 months

8

5

5

4

8

8

Source: ACT Health, MACH Program, 2011-12 to 2016-17 unpublished data.

Note The age group of infants is based upon completed calendar months only - any days over the calendar month are rounded down to the nearest completed month (e.g. two months and 20+ days is rounded to two months). The data for this indicator is obtained only from clients who attend MACH clinics for their immunisations and does not include clients who visit GPs or other health services for immunisations and therefore is only representative of a proportion of ACT infants. Trend data may differ from those previously published due to data revisions.

Table 6: Any breastfeeding (%), infants presenting at ACT MACH immunisation clinics, by age (completed calendar month), 2011-12 to 2016-17

 

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2 months

93

92

91

88

88

86

4 months

92

92

89

86

85

84

6 months

89

88

89

85

81

79

12 months

79

81

72

71

70

65

Source: ACT Health, Maternal and Child Health Program, 2013-14, 2014-15 unpublished data.

Note The data for this indicator is obtained only from clients who attend MACH clinics for their immunisations and does not include clients who visit GPs or other health services for immunisations and therefore is only representative of a proportion of ACT infants. Trend data may differ from those previously published due to data revisions.

The exclusive breastfeeding rate in the ACT during 2011-12 is not significantly different to that of the rate in 2016-17. However, any breastfeeding rate for infants between the age of two months and 12 months-old has decreased significantly since 2011-12.

Breastfeeding

8 AIHW 2011, National breatfeeding inicators: workshop report, cat.no. PHE 146, Canberra.
9 NHMRC 2012, Eat for Health: Infant feeding guidelines summary, Canberra.
10 NHMRC 2012, Eat for Health: Infant feeding guidelines summary, Canberra.