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Breastfeeding in New Zealand
Excerpts from the October 2007 LLL New Zealand Report

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 44, No. 2, 2008, p. 14

Editor's note: The following is excerpted from the October 2007 LLLNZ Annual Report.

This is an exciting and challenging time to be working in the field of breastfeeding in New Zealand. More than ever before, there is official recognition that breastfeeding is important for the creation and sustenance of a well society. Improving breastfeeding outcomes is now a stated priority within the health system, and is accepted as one of the key things that will lead to health improvements. Moreover, there is growing recognition that breastfeeding is a cultural and social practice, not just a health issue, and that a "whole system" approach is needed to support cultural change in favor of breastfeeding.

As awareness of the importance and value of breastfeeding grows, and more effort and resources are allocated to it in our health and social services, it is vital that La Leche League continue to play a leading role in advocating for breastfeeding and providing effective services that support and protect breastfeeding at the grassroots community level. LLL was founded on a clear understanding that breastfeeding is about developing healthy relationships as much as it is about healthy nourishment. A level of vigilance is required to ensure that the role of breastfeeding in building healthy mother-baby and family relationships is not unduly overshadowed in public policy and programs by a narrow emphasis on its importance for improving physical health. Some care also needs to be taken that the right balance is achieved between the three essential elements for creating and sustaining an environment that enables breastfeeding -- protection, promotion, and support. While all of these elements are important, they are not all equal. Of the three, support is the element that requires the most intensive effort. Protection and promotion can create environments in which women want to breastfeed and are not prevented from breastfeeding, but what mothers need most for breastfeeding success is informed support within their own social and cultural settings. It is the knowledge and practical skills of breastfeeding being held and embedded in families and communities, so that they are passed on readily and naturally, that underpin a sustainable breastfeeding culture.

While LLL is often seen by the public and media as a breastfeeding promotion and advocacy organization, our core work is mother support. This work is less noticed by the general public because it is less visible, being carried out one-on-one and in small groups in private settings. But it is the heart of what we do in LLL, and the heart of what all breastfeeding support programs will need to be if they are to succeed. Promotion can be the wrapping, but it's the quality and quantity of what's in the package that will count most.

Local LLL Groups and volunteer Leaders, backed up by the comprehensive, accurate, consistent well-researched information for which LLL is so well known and regarded, are a significant community resource. May you all continue to be treasured for your proactive role in gathering and sharing your breastfeeding knowledge in the age-old and still the most effective and sustainable way -- mothers helping mothers.

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