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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.

August 03, 2011

West Coast mums participate in World Breastfeeding week

Outstanding breastfeeding rates on the West Coast will see mums on the Coast taking this Friday's Big Latch On in their stride as part of World Breastfeeding Week.

Andrea Kendrick breastfeeding Heidi
Andrea Kendrick
breastfeeding Heidi

West Coast DHB chief executive David Meates says, "West Coast mothers are leading the country in their commitment to breastfeeding with figures released earlier this year showing breastfeeding rates at six months are nearly twice the national target."

"Initial results for Buller from the West Coast Breastfeeding Pathway research currently being done by the West Coast DHB indicate that the success is a result of a combined, supportive approach before and after birth from health professionals and mentoring mothers.

This is alongside a hospital-based

commitment to ensuring mothers have skin-to-skin contact and a successful first feed with their babies within the first hour of giving birth," says David Meates.

Andrea Kendrick, co-ordinator of the DHB's Healthy Eating Healthy Action (HEHA) project, conducted the research with mothers who birthed on the Coast in 2010. Results from the Greymouth, Westland and South Westland districts are being processed, but the preliminary results from Buller indicate a successful combination of services are in place.

"The role of ante-natal classes, the Baby Friendly Hospital accredited Kawatiri (Birthing Unit, Westport), lactation consultants, midwives and the support of the peer counsellors. Mums4Mums is being recognised in some very positive feedback for Buller," Andrea Kendrick says.

The importance of the La Leche League Peer Counselling Programme, known locally as Mum4Mums, was mentioned repeatedly in interviews. Mums4Mums are women with breastfeeding experience who have completed a 12 module peer counselling course and volunteer to help other women with their breastfeeding. Ms Kendrick says the Mums4Mums "are another option for support" to the improved breastfeeding rates.

Raewyn Johnson . . . breastfeeding's secret weapon on the West Coast

Recent research into the breastfeeding pathway for women in the Westport district identified one key figure . . . Buller PHO Breastfeeding Advocate and Lactation Consultant Raewyn Johnson.

In discussions with mothers about breastfeeding success, the comment was made that if other DHBs wanted to improve breastfeeding rates "they need a Raewyn".

Raewyn Johnson
Raewyn Johnson

Raewyn believes her success is mainly due to working within a small population albeit it spread out, from Karamea in the north Westport to the west and Reefton to the east and points in between.

In a small community, she fulfils more than one role in the birth and breastfeeding cycle which means she makes contact with most if not all of the mothers in her area.

A registered nurse, she co-ordinates the ante-natal programme at the Kawatiri Birthing Unit at Buller Health, Westport, and presents the fourth session

which focuses on breastfeeding. Through this and her role as a lactation consultant and work with the La Leche League peer counselling scheme, known locally as Mum4Mums, she meets pretty much all first time mothers.

The first time mums feel comfortable contacting her with breastfeeding problems once they are back at home . . . and they do the same if there are problems with subsequent children.

"I suppose you could call it multi-tasking in a small community," she says.

The mothers know they can contact Raewyn any time "in floods of tears on a Sunday afternoon" or late on a week night if needs be. "Maybe it's because they know that I will go the extra mile for them that they are determined to be successful with their breastfeeding. And also knowing that there is someone there if they get into trouble possibly gives them the confidence to persevere."

Raewyn says several breastfeeding "pluses" are well-known: It encourages bonding between mother and child, it is the more healthy choice with babies breastfed until six months less likely to be hospitalised with respiratory problems, it improves immunity and it costs nothing . . . feeding a nursing mother is cost neutral compared with the cost of baby formula.

But she says there are a number of further benefits including better speech development, higher IQ, and for the mother, protection against some major illnesses. "Breastfeeding is normal, and those 'benefits' are the norms associated with breastfeeding. So babies who are not breastfed on average have a lower IQ and have poorer jaw development thus poorer speech development, and women who don't breastfeed have a higher risk of both breast and ovarian cancer, and of developing osteoporosis.

"There are also wider benefits for the economy and the community. Breastfed children are sick less often which means mothers need less time off work and there's no pollution/rubbish associated with breastfeeding."

Mum Mel Sunbeam breastfeeding with Catherine Mitchell supporting
Mum Mel Sunbeam breast-
feeding with Catherine Mitchell

The major event for Breastfeeding Week is the Big Latch On, where as many women as possible are encouraged to breastfeed simultaneously. The event is timed for 10.30am this Friday, and is being held at several venues on the Coast: The Kawatiri Birthing Unit, Westport, Black Memorial Lounge, Reefton Hospital, McBrearty Ward, Greymouth Hospital, Greymouth Library, Café de Paris, Hokitika, and Franz Josef.

For more information on World Breastfeeding Week see www.womens-health.org.nz


  • 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.
  • 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 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.


For further information please contact

Bryan Jamieson
Community Liaison Officer
West Coast DHB
PO Box 387
Greymouth 7840
Phone (DDI): (03) 769-7665
Mobile: 027 245-9595
Email: This is not a link as we want to prevent spam.  Please transfer the email address on the image carefully into your email client before sending the email.  You might find, with some older email addresses on this site that they are no longer current, for staff-change reasons.  If your email bounces back please contact the WCDHB Communications Team - see Contacts section of this site.

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