Govt wants more babies to be breastfed

Australian mothers should exclusively breastfeed their babies until they are six months old, health ministers say.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon met her State and Territory counterparts in Adelaide today and endorsed a strategy to encourage more women to breastfeed.

The National Breastfeeding Strategy, to be released by the end of the year, noted only 14 per cent of six-month-old babies were exclusively breastfed.

Ms Roxon said that figure was not high enough.

"We unfortunately don't have high levels of breastfeeding in Australia compared to many other countries around the world," she said.

"Yet all of the evidence shows breastfeeding children for a longer period of time than is common in Australia has enormous health benefits both for the child and for the mother.

"There are, of course, some good reasons why some women can't, or are unable to, breastfeed.

"But what this is about is providing appropriate support, encouraging women to breastfeed, encouraging the community to help mothers feel comfortable about breastfeeding.

"This is about making breastfeeding a normal part of our health system, encouraging people to understand its health benefits and providing support so that women get all the care that they need."

Australian dietary guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of babies until six months, with solid foods introduced around six months and continued breastfeeding until 12 months.

"Our main focus is making sure the services that exist are able to get their information out to mothers," Ms Roxon said.

"Many services ... are already focused on this but we haven't been able to co-ordinate the services."