News and politics: Tongue Tied on Breastfeeding

By Morgan Pinder

With Australian breastfeeding rates falling well below the recommendations of the World Health Organization, is there more our health system could be doing to support new mums?
96% of new mothers in Australia have been shown to start breastfeeding their babies, but by the time the babies are just 3 months old that rate drops dramatically with only 39% of women continuing to exclusively breastfeed their child.
Whatever your opinion on the “breast is best” debate it is clear from the results of the 2010 National Infant Feeding survey that something is deterring mothers from continuing to breastfeed to the recommended 6 months as outlined by the World Health Organization.
A maternal health nurse at Wodonga Hospital, outlined the support offered to post-natal mothers, “We have a lactation consultant and the Breastfeeding association is strong”.
She is confident that mothers in the Albury Wodonga area are supported from discharge from the hospital right through to 2 years of age, adding “The process is designed so that you are handed over directly from one service to another.”
Temeaka, mum and community advocate for two groups focusing on infant lip and tongue ties which can have an impact on a baby’s ability to feed, found that the support network fell short when it came to information and advice about some of the medical factors that can make breastfeeding challenging.
Temeaka said, “On a day to day basis we have upwards of two mothers coming to us with feeding issues and no support,” adding; “I think health professionals across the board need updated and further training about ties in particular. The ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) website is a good start but needs further development.”
Carmen, a new mum linked in with the local maternal health service, was nearly able to breastfeed for the recommended 6 months after discharge from the Wodonga Maternity ward. She indicated that she found the support offered helpful at times but often inconsistent and confusing.
“I was happy to breastfeed,” Carmen said “but because of the staff rotation it was confusing when the nurses told you the opposite things to each other.”

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