Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Legislation, policies and guidelines related to breastfeeding and the Baby Friendly Health Initiative in Australia: a document analysis

Anahita Esbati A B , Margaret Barnes A , Amanda Henderson A and Jane Taylor A

A School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of the Sunshine Coast, 90 Sippy Downs Drive, Sippy Downs, Qld 4556, Australia. Email: mbarnes@usc.edu.au; ahender1@usc.edu.au; jane.taylor@usc.edu.au

B Corresponding author. Email: a_e028@student.usc.edu.au

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16067
Submitted: 10 March 2016  Accepted: 9 December 2016   Published online: 6 February 2017

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to assess the extent to which publicly available legislation, policy and guidelines related to breastfeeding and the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) underpin and support the uptake and implementation of the BFHI in Australia.

Methods Altheide’s document analysis model (sample, data collection, data organisation, data analysis and report) was used to source and analyse publicly available legislation, policies and guidelines in Australia that were related to breastfeeding and the BFHI at national, state and professional organisational levels.

Results Legislation documents contained no direct references to the BFHI or Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, despite the documents being supportive of breastfeeding. There is little reference to the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes or to monitoring of the Marketing in Australia of Infant Formulae (MAIF) Agreement at national and state levels. A gap exists in documents that provide up-to-date records regarding monitoring of breastfeeding rates at the national level.

Conclusions National and state guidelines are supportive of breastfeeding and the BFHI. However, the BFHI and Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes are not legislated in Australia and information related to breastfeeding rates is not up to date. A legislative establishment supporting the Code and establishing plans to monitor the MAIF Agreement and breastfeeding outcomes may influence uptake and implementation of the BFHI.

What is known about the topic? Extensive evidence supports the health and economic benefits of breastfeeding. Despite a high initiation rate of breastfeeding in Australia (96%) most recently reported in 2010, the rate of breastfed infants dropped considerably over time: approximately 15% of infants were breastfed for the recommended 6 months. Research supports the positive effect of the BFHI on increasing breastfeeding rates and improving breastfeeding outcomes. In 2016, there are 69 Baby-friendly-accredited maternity facilities across Australia, compared with 77 accredited facilities in 2011 (~23% of all maternity facilities).

What does this paper add? This is the first document analysis of publicly available legislation, policy and guidelines related to breastfeeding and the BFHI at Australian national, state and professional organisational levels to assess the extent to which these documents support breastfeeding, as well as the uptake and implementation of the BFHI. This study identifies strengths and weaknesses at legislative, policy and guideline levels that could potentially influence the uptake and implementation of the BFHI.

What are the implications for practitioners? The uptake and implementation of the BFHI is potentially influenced by legislation, policy and guidelines at national and state levels. Given the low uptake of the BFHI in Australia, this analysis outlines the extent to which these documents support breastfeeding and the BFHI, and indicates what these documents lack with regard to supporting the uptake and implementation of the BFHI.


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