Reducing barriers to breastfeeding


The Government is committed to increasing the number of mothers who breastfeed for longer to give babies born in New Zealand the best start in life.

The Ministry of Health recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six month but only about 20 percent of children at this age are breastfed. The rates are even lower in Māori and Pacific infants.

 “The National Breastfeeding Strategy: Rautaki Whakamana Whāngote was officially released today. It sets a clear direction for DHBs and providers such as GPs and midwives to improve access to technical, financial, emotional, cultural and public support for whānau,” Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

“Breastfeeding is a cost effective, safe and environmentally friendly way to make sure babies are getting the nutrients they need as they grow.

“Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of diabetes, allergies such as eczema and respiratory infections, while mothers have a lower risk of maternal Type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and heart disease.

“The Strategy is about making sure the health system is protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding so no matter where you live, you can easily and freely access the services you need.

“It also gives guidance to the wider community such as workplaces, childcare and early childhood education centres on how they can support more women to breastfeed.

“The ability to produce enough milk for the baby is only one part of a woman’s decision to breastfeed. There are many other reasons why mothers may choose to either stop breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks or not start in the first place.

“The Ministry of Health expects DHBs to have 70% of their population exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months. The current national average is 47%.

“We need to provide better resources and put in place more support to ensure whānau are making informed decisions. Support could come in the form of more breastfeeding friendly infrastructure, kaupapa Māori breastfeeding and antenatal initiatives that are free and more widely available, and digital and virtual breastfeeding programmes,” Dr Ayesha Verrall said.