I have been a midwife in Australia for 30 years.
I believe that human babies have a right to human milk.
Who agrees with me?
6 months exclusive breast feeding is the recommended minimum. According to the latest publicly available comprehensive figures, 96% of Australian mothers initiate breast feeding for their newborns. At 5 months only 15% have been exclusively breast fed for that time. To achieve better breast feeding rates, mothers need more support.
The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities states: “Every child has the right, without discrimination, to such protection as is in his or her best interests and is needed by him or her by reason of being a child.”
The first few days are crucial to establishing breast feeding.
Since breast feeding is unarguably the best foundation for a baby’s life long physical, psychological and social health, why have successive Victorian governments whittled away at the publicly funded lying in period spent among midwives for new mothers?
When I became a midwife in the late 1980’s, we were very reluctant to send a breast feeding woman home if the milk supply was not established. Sometimes that could mean midwifery care in hospital for a week. Most mothers stayed for three to five days.
Since then the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative made Victorian hospitals much better places to establish breast feeding than they were. But the question, “Is the milk in yet?” has been replaced in public hospitals by the question “How soon do you want to go home?” The common length of stay is one to three days or earlier if the mother wants. For some women going home quickly is highly desirable and not a problem at all. But for others, undisturbed bonding with the baby under the care of experts in breast feeding is a need that it is impossible to meet at home.
Why have women and their newborn babies been denied the right to a publicly funded lying-in period to establish breast feeding?
I believe this has happened because it is cheaper for new mothers to be sent home quickly than it is to care for them.
Earlier this decade, I told Labor Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, that I believed new mothers were being sent home too quickly. Her immediate response was to ask what impact would that have on breast feeding rates. She promised to discuss my concerns with me, but did not deliver on the promise till she became Attorney General: she knew there was a problem but she didn’t make the time to listen to me when it counted.
At that time if you googled “Liberal Party breast feeding” Tony Abbot’s generous paid parental scheme was what you found: this policy would have helped breast feeding rates; he clearly did care. Who cares now?
If you googled ”Labor Party breast feeding” the result was policies about cattle feedlots.
Australia’s latest national comprehensive breast feeding figures are from 2010.
Share market prices can be dealt with in seconds or even milli-seconds.
Who wants a better balance between our attention to our breast feeding rates and our attention to stock prices? I know I do.
Why don’t we have regular updates on breast feeding rates?
Is there a single candidate running in this year’s Victorian state election who cares about breast feeding and who will push for better midwifery postnatal services and the return of a publicly funded lying-in period available to all mothers?
https://www.facebook.com/groups/breastfeedingsupportinvictoria/?ref=group_browse_new was my attempt to raise awareness prior to the previous election. Who wants to revive this effort?
Mothers want to give their babies the best.
But they need more support.
Who else cares about this?
Societies which neglect the needs of mothers and their babies cannot survive.
Geoff Fox, Midwife. 08-05-2018.
Postscript. ……….. I. Geoff Fox, am no longer a midwife, but I still care deeply about mums. (11/1o/2020)