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This section contains media releases released a little while ago. Please note that due to the long time when some of these were released images have been removed and some links might no longer work.

May 2, 2011

West Coast leads the way in breastfeeding

West Coast mothers are leading the charge in their commitment to breastfeeding with latest figures showing breastfeeding rates at six months are nearly twice the national target.

West Coast DHB chief executive David Meates says, "Strong community support and a number of local health initiatives are behind the outstanding results. They will be presented at the Agencies for Nutrition Action (ANA) conference starting in Auckland today."

David Meates says, "Ten years ago the West Coast DHB area had the lowest breastfeeding rates at six weeks of all the district health boards in the country. "The reason behind the turn around is a strong focus on face-to-face, baby-friendly, inclusive initiatives that have been introduced to support groups, workplaces and public spaces such as cafes."

In general, breastfeeding rates in New Zealand have risen slightly in the last 10 years. However, figures for West Coast babies are above the trend, with latest Plunket figures showing 81 percent of Maori babies being exclusively breastfed at six weeks, compared with 62 percent of Maori babies nationally.

The West Coast figure for Pakeha and other babies is about the same as the national figure, at 69 percent. At six months, however, both groups are well above the national averages (figures in brackets), with 32 percent of Maori babies (18%) and 40% of Pakeha ( and other) babies (29%) being exclusively breastfed.

Kim Sinclair-Morris, a project specialist with the West Coast and Canterbury District Health Boards, is presenting the latest statistics at the ANA conference. She says a multi-pronged approach between the health boards, the West Coast Primary Health Organisation and community and public health services has resulted in integrated community action and supportive environments.

Kim says, "The successful recipe starts with midwives and lactation consultants at the maternity units who get breastfeeding under way in hospital and provide support once mother and baby are at home.

"Community-based support continues with a MUM4MUMS peer support network, a BABES-In-Arms support group for breastfeeding mothers, education programmes at all levels and stages (for general practice teams, for example) and more recently , The Hub, a child and family focused community centre in Greymouth. And BIG - the Breastfeeding Interest Group - which brings together all the relevant groups.

Funding has come from various sources including the Ministry of Health's Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) project.

Women involved in these groups will happily travel many kilometres to support mothers who might be struggling with breastfeeding or some other aspect of new motherhood.

The West Coast region which stretches about 600 km from Haast through to Karamea has a population of just over 32,000. It is one of the most sparsely populated of all health board regions, with small geographically isolated communities and nearly half the population on an annual income of $20,000 or less.

According to Tracey Page, Maori Health worker for Rata Te Awhina Trust, the very hands-on support offered by initiatives like MUM4MUMs is crucial. Contact and a rapport is established early allowing intervention before problems arise and panic sets in, and there is a temptation to give up on breastfeeding.

Jude Bruce, Maternity Manager for the West Coast, says that having people physically being there for mothers has been an essential ingredient. "It's not just talking about it. There has to be good, face-to-face support for mothers when they get home."

Greymouth mum Siahn Taylor says the support at The Hub and through MUM4MUMS has been amazing. "They are just completely non-judgemental. They will help you with anything, and are amazing at supporting breastfeeding. Even if you lose your temper you know you can do that and be safe. They won't judge, and the encourage you not to give up."

Lactation consultant Alison Wallace says it is also about education and seeing breastfeeding in a wider context and delivering the relevant education. "The Ministry of Health has targets and health goals. Breastfeeding can help achieve these goals, for example, in relation to reducing childhood obesity and illnesses."

Workplaces on the Coast are following through with baby-friendly practices. The West Coast District Health Board, West Coast Primary Health Organisation and Westland Milk Products have all introduced positive breast-feeding polices. Other businesses, like Greymouth's Jade Boulder Café, have introduced an area where women can breastfeed discreetly.

Kim Sinclair-Morris says into the future the focus will be on building on what has been working well, particularly linking more mothers into the MUM4MUMS programme, and accessing harder to reach and the more at-risk mums.

For more information contact:
Kim Sinclair-Morris, Project Specialist
Canterbury District Health Board
(03) 364-4154, or 027 212 7462

Further information is also available at:

The Hub - "Nurturing the Future":

Agencies for Nutrition Action - ANA (Heart Foundation, Diabetes New Zealand, Cancer Society etc):

New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority (collaboration of groups and organisations involved in birth, babies, ante/postnatal care):

World Health Organisation - WHO - Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion:

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