Breastfeeding and Early Years (0-5)

A 'how-to' guide for prevention, early intervention, treatment and management of childhood obesity.

Promoting breastfeeding and support introduction of healthy first foods

Breastfeeding gives babies the best start to a healthy life and confers life-long protective effects for the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies. All health professionals have a responsibility to encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.[1] [2] [3]

Ask and Assess

  • Ask if mother intends to breastfeed, for how long, any difficulties experienced, any contact with Child Health Services.
  • Ask the family about timing and choice of first foods.
  • Ask mum how she is managing her own health postpartum. 
  • Complete infant’s weights and lengths and plot on WHO Growth charts. Note any sudden upward trends. 

Advise and Assist

  • Encourage exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months of life, with breastfeeding continuing to at least 12 m and beyond, for as long as mother and baby desire. Where breastfeeding is not desired or possible, infants should be fed infant formula.
  • First foods should be introduced when developmentally appropriate (around 6 m but not before 4 m) with iron-rich foods included first. Avoid ‘baby’ juices.
  • Full cream cows milk can be given as a drink from 12m. Toddler formulas are not required unless medically indicated. Recommend using a cup and discourage use of a feeding bottle.
  • Provide resources to assist family.
  • Discuss weight gained in pregnancy and the importance of embedding healthy behaviours (good nutrition and active movement) into parents’ own lifestyle with an infant to protect for their own long-term health.  
  • Encourage mum and dad to engage in all child health development checks, and additional ones between 3-5 via GP or child health nurse. 
  • Encourage role modelling of fruits and vegetables to increase exposure and ‘normalise’ these foods as part of healthy everyday eating. 

Arrange and Ask Again

  • Refer to local child health services or 13 HEALTH: Note must request to speak with a child health nurse.  Provide contact details for the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
  • Ask family for follow-up appointment infant feeding and support.
  • Provide awareness to localised health programs that can support families towards healthy eating and active movement.

References

  1. Australian Government. Australian Burden of Disease Study Impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: 2011. In: Australian Insitute of Health and Welfare, editor. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011.
  2. Australian Government. Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond. Canberra2019.
  3. National Health and Medical Research Council. Infant Feeding Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council; 2012

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Last updated 11 January 2023