An account of significant events influencing Australian breastfeeding practice over the last 40 years

Robyn E Thompson, Sue Kildea, Lesley M Barclay, Sue Kruske

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Background: Low breastfeeding duration rates reflect the pain and distress experienced by many women who discontinue breastfeeding in the early weeks and months of life. This paper explores modern key historical events that have significantly influenced Australian breastfeeding education and practice.

    Method: Relevant literature reviewed from 1970 to 2010 identified key events that appear to have contributed to the decrease in Australian breastfeeding rates and the increase in women experiencing breastfeeding complications, particularly nipple pain and trauma.

    Findings and discussion: The rise in institutionalisation and medical intervention in labour and birth has also medicalised midwifery practice. Technocratic intrusion and institutionalised care is contributing to the separation of the mother and newborn at birth. Delayed mother-baby initiation of breastfeeding and interruption of the duration of the first, and subsequent breastfeeds, negatively affects the innate ability of the mother and newborn to establish and sustain breastfeeding. The 'pathologising' of breastfeeding that involve midwives teaching women complicated and unnatural breastfeeding techniques interfere with instinctive sensory and mammalian behaviours and further contributes to the high complication rates.

    Conclusion: Midwives are encouraged to reflect on their role as 'experts' in the breastfeeding process and give confidence to women so that they utilise their instinctive ability to breastfeed by self-determined techniques that encourage mammalian skills for newborn sustenance and survival. � 2010 Australian College of Midwives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)97-104
    Number of pages8
    JournalWomen and Birth
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


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