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"Are you planning on breastfeeding?"

It's part of the antenatal clinic checklist. To discuss a woman's feeding preference.

"Are you planning on breastfeeding?"

The most common response I was usually given: "If I can".

In Australian, our breastfeeding initiation rate at birth consistently sits above 95%. Data from the ABS (2020-2021) shows that by 2 months of age the rate of exclusively breastfed infants falls to approximately 75%, and then to approximately 66% at 4 months of age. What does this tell us? That women want to breastfeed. Yet something is happening in the early weeks and months, that results in this decline.

Comparing these statistics to data from the 2011/2012 Australian Health Survey, it's really positive to see these numbers have improved over the past 10 years, where our exclusive breastfeeding rates were sitting at approximately 58% at 2 months of age and 38.6% at 4 months of age. The reasons for this change, I believe may be due to improved education, more knowledge, improved supports - I feel a cultural shift is happening.

I want to stop here and acknowledge the women who are, or have experienced a difficult breastfeeding journey. I see you. I know it can be a very sensitive topic and there is SO much we still need to do as individual caregivers, as family members, as healthcare teams, as a system, in government, as a society to better support women in achieving their breastfeeding goals. See my previous post "What does educate and support mean to me?".

So why the drop? There are many reasons women may choose to wean in those early weeks/months:

  • Experiencing breastfeeding problems.

  • Lack of support.

  • Disruptive hospital practices.

  • Perceived low milk supply.

  • Lack of knowledge around normal infant feeding behaviours.

  • Familial attitudes to breastfeeding - just to name a few.

The key to successful breastfeeding is multifactorial - getting the attachment right from the beginning, frequent skin to skin contact, frequent and unrestricted access to the breast, a supportive partner along with being aware of local supports.

Breastfeeding is natural but it's a learned skill. It takes time and patience.

I won't go into all the issues I encountered breastfeeding my first babe here....but let's just say, that everything that could possibly go wrong, did. It took us at least 8 weeks to establish breastfeeding. The only reason I was able to keep persisting was due to my knowledge base, along with an incredibly supportive team, partner and family.

Knowledge is power. Education is so important. Many of us invest time and energy into preparing for birth, but what about breastfeeding? Is this on your radar?

If you'd like to learn about breastfeeding and be able to answer that question with a confident "YES", join me for a 3 hour breastfeeding Workshop Saturday July 22nd 2023. Book here.

If you're currently breastfeeding, or have breastfed before - I'd love to know what you wish you had of known prior to having your baby.

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