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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011  Final
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Contents >> Adult health >> Mothers' and children's health >> Child nutrition and breastfeeding


MOTHERS' AND CHILDREN'S HEALTH: CHILD NUTRITION AND BREASTFEEDING
This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


KEY MESSAGES

According to the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, three-quarters (76%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years had been breastfed.

The median age at which breastfeeding stopped for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years, who had been and who were not currently being breastfed, was 17 weeks for those living in non-remote areas and 36 weeks for those who lived in remote areas.

One-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants aged under six months (35%) had been given solid food and of these, two-thirds (64%) were first given solid food regularly after four months of age.

Over half of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years ate fruit (59%) and vegetables (53%) daily, with younger children most likely to meet or exceed the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables.

Good nutrition is fundamental to health and wellbeing. The benefits of breastfeeding to infants, mothers and society have been well-documented (Endnote 1).

Establishing healthy eating patterns among children can help reduce nutrition-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the population in the longer term. Healthy eating patterns include daily consumption of fruit and vegetables since low intake of fruit and vegetables increases the likelihood of ischaemic heart disease (Endnote 2). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families living in isolated areas, however, face particular challenges in providing their children with fresh, affordable food on a regular basis.

This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) which provides the most recent data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child health. Information was collected from a parent or guardian on the dietary experiences of children aged 0–3 years and on fruit and vegetable consumption for children aged 1–14 years. If the parent or guardian was not available, a close relative or other household member who had responsibility for the child provided information about the child.

This topic includes information on:
BREASTFEEDING
Nationally, three-quarters (76%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years in 2008, were currently breastfeeding or had previously been breastfed, similar to the proportion in 2004–05 (Endnote 3). While non-Indigenous comparisons are not available for 2008, in 2004–05 higher proportions of non-Indigenous children aged 0–3 years in non-remote areas had been breastfed compared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (88% and 79% respectively).

In 2008, one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years (20%) were currently being breastfed, with younger children in this age group most likely to be currently breastfeeding. Just over half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged under 6 months (51%) were currently being breastfed, with this proportion decreasing slightly to 47% for children aged to less than one year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in non-remote areas were less likely to be breastfed than those who lived in remote areas. Among children aged 0–3 years, 85% of those in remote areas and 73% of those in non-remote areas were currently or had previously been breastfeed in 2008. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants aged less than six months who were currently being breastfed was more than one and a half times higher for those living in remote areas (77% compared with 45% of those who lived in non-remote areas).

2.1 BREASTFEEDING STATUS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years—2008
chart: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote and non-remote areas, whether ever breastfed (children 0–3 years) and whether currently breastfeed (children < 6 months), 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.


As well as having higher rates of breastfeeding, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote areas also tended to be breastfed for longer compared with children in non-remote areas.The median age at which breastfeeding stopped (for children aged 0–3 years who had been and who were not currently being breastfed) was 17 weeks for those living in non-remote areas and 36 weeks for those who lived in remote areas. Nearly one in four children who lived in remote areas (24%) stopped being breastfed at age 12–24 months compared with 13% of those who lived in non-remote areas.

2.2 AGE STOPPED BREASTFEEDING, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–3 years(a)—2008
chart: age stopped breastfeeding in non-remote and remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander childen 0–3 years, 2008
(a) Who had ever been breastfed and who were not currently being breastfed.
(b) Estimate for non-remote has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.


While breastmilk or infant formula provides all the nutrients babies need from birth to six months, other foods need to be added around this age in order to meet the nutritional requirements of the child. The current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend, for the general infant population, that solids and complementary food (weaning food) should not be introduced until around six months of age (Endnote 4). However, the guidelines acknowledge that some infants may benefit from the introduction of solids earlier than six months (but not before four months). In 2008, one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants aged under six months (35%) had been given solid food and of these 2,600 infants, two-thirds (64%) were first given solid food regularly after four months of age.

DIETARY BEHAVIOURS OF CHILDREN

The National Health and Medical Research Council Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods, including a high intake of plant food such as fruit and vegetables while also recommending moderating total fat and saturated fat intake. Guidelines on the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables for children are also provided (Endnote 4).

The 2008 NATSISS collected information on the consumption of fruit and vegetables for children aged 1–14 years including the number of daily serves of fruit and vegetables usually eaten by those living in non-remote areas.

Nationally, more than half (59%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years were reported to eat fruit every day in 2008 (52% in remote). While the proportions of boys who ate fruit daily did not differ between remote and non-remote areas (58% overall), girls living in non-remote areas were more likely to eat fruit daily (62% compared with 50% in remote areas). Just over half (53%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years ate vegetables daily. This rate did not differ significantly between boys and girls living in non-remote or remote areas.

2.3 DAILY FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CONSUMPTION, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years—2008
chart: fruit and vegetable consumption by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 1–14 years in remote and non-remote areas, 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.


The number of serves of fruit and vegetables usually eaten by children was collected only from those who lived in non-remote areas. Among children aged 4–14 years, younger children were more likely to meet the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables than older children. Of children aged 4–7 years, 62% exceeded the recommended daily intake of fruit and 60% complied with the guidelines for vegetable consumption. In comparison, 21% and 19% of children aged 12–14 years met the guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption respectively.

2.4 COMPLIANCE WITH DIETARY GUIDELINES, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in non-remote areas—2008
chart: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children's compliance with fruit and vegetable dietary guidelines, non-remote areas, 2008
(a) Based on daily consumption of two or more serves of fruit, which exceeds the dietary guidelines.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Mothers' and children's health datacube.
ENDNOTES

1. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing 2007, 'The Best Start: Report on the inquiry into the health benefits of breastfeeding', Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, 2007, <www.aph.gov.au>.

2. Vos, T., Barker, B., Stanley, L. and Lopez, A. 2007, 'The Burden of Disease and Injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2003', School of Population Health, Brisbane, <www.uq.edu.au>

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, 'National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, Australia, 2004-05', cat. no. 4715.0, ABS, Canberra.

4. National Health and Medical Research Council 2003, 'Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia', N29 - N34, <www.nhmrc.gov.au>.

In Food for health, the daily food consumption guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake recommend:
    • One serve of fruit, and two serves of vegetables and legumes, for children aged 4–7 years.
    • One serve of fruit, and three serves of vegetables and legumes, for children aged 8–11 years.
    • Three serves of fruit, and four serves of vegetables and legumes, for adolescents aged 12–18 years.

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