Northland Scores Top of the Country for Exclusive Breastfeeding

Northland has, once again, come out on top with the highest rates in the country for exclusive breastfeeding on discharge from maternity facilities.

With an overall rating of 94.7 per cent, it exceeds other regions with Whanganui at 90.6 per cent and Hutt Valley trailing at 76.3 per cent.

The Northland DHB lactation consultation team was phoned by the New Zealand Breastfeeding Authority to congratulate Northland for retaining the lead for the fourth year in a row.

Lactation consultant and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) co-ordinator Helen Parker, who has worked tirelessly on breastfeeding in Northland and to make Northland DHB hospitals become baby-friendly accredited, says the team have increased their leading margin and it is something to celebrate and congratulate all staff on.

“(The New Zealand Breast feeding Authority) commented that Northland DHB had the best rate of exclusive breast feeding on discharge “by far” compared to the rest of New Zealand.”

Exclusive breast feeding is when only breast milk from the breast or expressed and prescribed medicines have been given from birth.

World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months and continuing with the introduction of solids. Exclusively breastfeeding a baby decreases the risks of allergies, obesity, tummy bugs, infections, Meningitis, urinary tract infections, diabetes, childhood cancers and SUDI (sudden unexpected death of an infant).

For mums, breastfeeding decreases the risk of cancer of the breast, ovaries and cervix, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Within Northland’s 94.7 per cent success rate, regionally, Kaipara scored the top marks with a 100 per cent exclusive breast-feeding rate on discharge, with Whangarei 95.4 per cent, Bay of Islands 93 per cent and Kaitaia 89.4 per cent.

Ms Parker says Northland has come a long way since she began ten years ago.

“In November 2003 our exclusive breast feeding rate on discharge was 64 per cent. I was employed in 2004 to implement BFHI in Northland. It saw many changes in Northland and, particularly, Whangarei. 

“Our nursery was removed and all babies remained with their mothers, so they could feed their babies on cue and, for as long as baby needed to feed. We implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breast feeding Breastfeeding policy development and implemented education for staff and support services for mothers, such as lactation clinics.

“BFHI has made some big differences in Northland and breastfeeding gives our babies and mothers in Northland a healthier start to life.”

Ms Parker says the success rate was due to a consistent, evidence-based practice. “With consistent advice, women do not get confused.

“This is a huge achievement and a team effort from LMC’s (Lead Maternity Carers), core midwives, nurses (ward), lactation consultants, obstetricians and ancillary staff all working together to provide the best care to the women, partners and whanau of Northland.”

She added that the new maternity unit will also greater benefit women with two and single bed rooms, as opposed to four-bedded rooms and singles.

Breast Feeding Definitions:

  • Exclusive Breastfeeding: The infant has never to the mothers knowledge, had any water, formula other liquid or solid food. Only breast milk from the breast or expressed and prescribed medicines have been given from birth
  • Fully Breastfeeding: The infant has taken breast milk only and no other liquids or solids except a minimal amount of water or prescribed medicines, in the past 48 hours
  • Partial Breastfeeding: The infant has taken some breast milk and some infant formula or other solid food in the past 48 hours
  • Artificial Feeding: The infant has had no breast milk but has had alternative liquid such as infant formula with or without solid food in the past 48 hours.

The lactation consultant team behind Northland’s breastfeeding success (left to right): Angela Yendell, Helen Parker and Janine Parsons.

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