4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/03/2013   
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Contents >> Health related actions >> Breastfeeding



This topic refers to breastfeeding of children aged 0-3 years, and focuses on duration of breastfeeding and ages at which foods other than breast milk were introduced into the infant's regular diet.


Information was collected for children aged 0-3 years (that is, children up to 3 years and 11 months of age) in the NHS.


The World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend exclusive breastfeeding until around 6 months of age. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as feeding the child only breast milk. This can include milk expressed from the mother, from a wet nurse or from a breast milk donor.


The following questions were designed to enable measurement of exclusive breastfeeding.

The child's proxy (preferably, but not necessarily, the child's mother) was initially asked whether the child's first feed after he/she was born was:

  • breast milk;
  • infant formula; or
  • other, which could include soy milk, cow's milk, evaporated milk or any other type of milk or milk substitutes.

If the child’s first feed after birth was not breast milk, the proxy was then asked whether the child had ever received breast milk. If yes, they were asked:
  • how soon after birth the child had received breast milk;
  • whether the child was receiving breast milk when he/she first came home from hospital; and
  • whether the child was currently receiving breast milk.

If the child was not currently receiving breast milk, the proxy was asked for the age of the child at which he/she stopped receiving breast milk.

For those children currently receiving breast milk, the proxy was asked when the child last received breast milk, and:
  • whether the child had ever received any other fluids apart from breast milk;
  • how old the child was when he/she first received these; and
  • how long ago the child last received them.

Other fluids included:
  • infant formula products;
  • water;
  • cow's milk;
  • soy milk;
  • water based drinks such as cordial or soft drink;
  • fruit juice; and/or
  • any other milk or non-milk products.

Lastly, the proxy was asked whether the child had ever eaten any soft, semi-solid or solid foods, and if so, how old the child was when he/she first received this food and how long ago he/she last ate this food.

Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic will be available in Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • information is 'as reported' by the child's proxy. No analysis has been undertaken regarding accuracy of reported data, and whether accuracy of recall declines as a child gets older.
  • accuracy of the data may be affected in cases where an adult other than the child's parent responded for the child.

Comparability with 2007-08 and 2004-05

Information on breastfeeding was not collected in the 2007-08 NHS therefore no comparison can be made between 2011-12 and 2007-08.

Limited information was collected on breastfeeding in the 2004-05 NHS. Only the following items can be compared with 2011-12:
  • Whether ever received breast milk; and
  • Currently receiving breast milk.

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