How can we increase breastfeeding rates in Australia?

By  29 August 2022 

Image courtesy of

Why Do Women Stop Breastfeeding?

Lack of support is the core reason most women stop breastfeeding. There are various issues new mothers face including difficulty attaching, concerns about milk supply levels and worry about unsettled babies that were cited in the Australian national infant feeding survey (by parents who stopped breastfeeding entirely before 6 months). 

Most of these issues can be resolved with reassurance, education and trouble shooting by a trained professional.

Anecdotally, many women are also undermined by advice from well meaning family and friends suggesting they 'just use formula' when they express their concerns and fears rather than being able to encourage and help the mother find trained support to work through the issues.

Do Caesarean Sections Impact Breastfeeding Success?

Yes. Women who have a c-section have a higher proportion of breastfeeding difficulties (41%) for a variety of reasons. (11)

Australia has one of the highest caesarean rates in the world. In 2019 36% of all women giving birth in Australia had a caesarean (AIHW 2021), compared to the recommended rate of 10 to 15% (WHO Statement on Caesarean Section Rates). (10)

A medicalised birth means the woman will need more support to successfully establish and continue breastfeeding, especially in the sensitive 1, 24, and 48 hours after birth. The ability to identify mothers likely to need additional breastfeeding support, and then provide this additional support is currently not provided in the Australian healthcare system.

What Percentage of Mothers Breastfeed in Australia?

As at 2017-18, it is estimated that 93% of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth, however only 29% or 3 in 10 continue breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months of age.

Highlighting the importance of support in the newborn stage, the data also showed that 64% of babies in 2 parent families were exclusively breastfeeding at 4 months of age, compared to only 46% in single parent families. (2)

What are the Breastfeeding Rates in Australia?

At 2 months of age: 

  • 83% were still receiving breast milk 
  • 74% were exclusively breastfed 

At 4 months of age: 

  • 73% were still receiving breast milk 
  • 61% were exclusively breastfed
  • 6% were introduced to solids before 4 months, a reduction since 2014-15 (9%) 

At 6 months of age: 

  • 66%were still receiving breast milk 
  • 29% were exclusively breastfed 
  • 53% had not been introduced to solids before 6 months 

Aged 1 to 3 years: 

  • 11% were still receiving breast milk 
  • 41% received breast milk for at least 12 months 


How Can Australia Improve Breastfeeding Rates?

We know that the key driver to improve breastfeeding rates is appropriate support to women. The majority of women initiate breastfeeding, and then stop due to lack of support and education to help them overcome the issues they encounter.

Australia already has the framework in place to support new mums with the ABA, the BFHI and lactation consultants across the country. Now we need to:

  1. Start measuring breastfeeding rates every year using a larger sample size than the National Health Surveys. What isn't measured won't be managed and makes it difficult to know whether progress is being made.
  2. Make Lactation Services an included heath service under the Medicare program. Breastfeeding support should be free and easy to access for all mothers and shouldn't be a user pays service. 
  3. Make the Baby Friendly Health Initiative accreditation mandatory for all maternity facilities. 
  4. Increase funding to the ABA so they can improve their support to the population, and increase the work they do to promote breastfeeding. This would ideally include free online face-to-face sessions with a counsellor, and drop in services in high needs areas. 
  5. Provide additional support to high risk women. For example, in locations with low breastfeeding rates and for women who delivered via c-section, or who are identified as high risk by other means.

Qiara is a family of breastmilk isolated probiotics for pregnancy, breastfeeding, infant, kid and adult. Supporting lifelong gut health with our awarded brand, most highly rated “Vitamin and Supplement” for Mum at @TellmebabyAU 2020 and 2021. Evidence-based for 7 health outcomes including : reducing mild mastitis, restore gut flora after antibiotic recovery, restoring good bacteria after csection, supporting immunity, improve good bacteria growth and supporting gastrointestinal health. Read over 2000 brand reviews and probiotic insights @Qiaraprobiotics : Buy online