Breastfeeding Data

Breastfeeding Rates in New Zealand

New Zealand's reported breastfeeding rates compare favourably with the rates of other OECD countries. Data is collected by NZBA, Midwives and Royal NZ Plunket Society.

Rates at discharge from maternity services

The NZBA monitors the exclusive breastfeeding rates at discharge from maternity services of well babies, giving us data since 2001 for many of the facilities. In 2001 NZBA were contracted to conduct a BFHI audit of 30 (36%) of the maternity services for the Ministry of Health. These 30 services accounted for over 90% of the births in NZ. The average exclusive breastfeeding rate at discharge from maternity in these services in 2001 was 56.6%. None of the services audited met all of the standards required for BFHI accreditation. Now all of the 30 services audited in 2001 are accredited and the average exclusive breastfeeding rate is 83.4% in these same services.

The first maternity services were accredited as Baby Friendly in 2002 and since then there has been a steady improvement in the average exclusive breastfeeding rate at discharge to the current level of 84.4% in the 76 accredited maternity services. 98.7% of infants born in New Zealand are born in Baby Friendly maternity services. Four percent are born in the community (i.e. home births) and so only 0.14 percent of infants are born in non-BFHI accredited services.

Many of the services have been assessed more than twice and the trend is for improvement in the exclusive breastfeeding rates. For primary units the average rate at discharge is 91.6%, for secondary services 83.3% and tertiary services 81.0%.

Midwifery Data reports for Breastfeeding at two weeks.

Community Breastfeeding data

The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society collect and report on infant feeding rates to the Ministry of Health. Plunket provide care for approximately 90% of New Zealand infants. Their data however, from 1998 - 2010 shows that the breastfeeding rates in the community have shown only small levels or no improvement in New Zealand's and for Mäori and Pacific peoples the rate has remained consistently lower. There are limitations in the New Zealand data due to inconsistencies in definition, age of collection, and the percentage of the population from whom the data is captured.

From 1995 to 2010, 19-21 percent of European and other babies are reported to be fully breastfeeding at six months. This compares with 17-18 percent for Pacific babies, and for Mäori babies this rate decreases to 13-14 percent.

Since 1995 there have been a number of initiatives to promote and support breastfeeding in New Zealand, and some of these specifically target Mäori. The development of clear and consistent breastfeeding definitions in February 1999 and the incorporation of these definitions into provider reporting requirements from 2003 will improve the quality of breastfeeding data in the future.