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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 October 2018) . . Page.. 4511 ..

diverse women, women who are younger and women who have a low socio-economic status. Some of these factors also correlate with evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on increased rates of obesity. Among other things, those who are in the low socio-economic groups are more likely to be overweight and obese.

I do not know how much relationship there is with the lower breastfeeding rates correlating with the likelihood of obesity or being overweight when the baby grows up. I do not know how much linkage there is here between the lower rates of breastfeeding and our increasing rates of obesity and being overweight. There certainly would appear to be at least a statistical link. We do know that obesity and being overweight are having a major impact on our population’s health and wellbeing. They also contribute to the rising costs of chronic non-communicable diseases in our health systems. This is another long-term reason why we need to look very carefully at anything we can do to increase the rate of breastfeeding for our babies. Even if it is not for a long period of their life, it is quite clear that even a short period helps the babies.

As I mentioned earlier, for millennia breastfeeding was the only option available to babies. It has only been since the mid-1900s that formula provided a viable alternative for babies. But it seems as though the influence of the efforts of the patriarchal medical profession and their commercial interests to push formula on to babies is still being felt in Australia as well as, unfortunately, in other parts of the world where babies are being fed inadequately made-up formula because their mothers either have no alternative or they mistakenly believe that this is a better alternative for their babies. We are all aware of the consumer boycotts of Nestle for this reason.

Some of the drift away from breastfeeding has been as a result of very positive changes which have given women more freedom and, in particular, the ability to return to work following having children. Initiatives such as the milk bank, more supportive employer practices such as breastfeeding breaks and providing places to feed or to express breastmilk are important. They ensure that women who need or want to return to work, or who just want a small amount of time away from their babies, can do so without this being at the expense of the mum’s and baby’s wellbeing.

I would also like to note that the difficulties women face with breastfeeding are not new. We have always talked about it taking a village to raise a child. I think that we need to look at that in terms of breastfeeding as well and be more positive about the informal arrangements that have existed over the millennia and, as Ms Cheyne touched on in her speech, still happen now.

We should not discount those in our push to have a formal, centralised arrangement. I think that both are good things. I strongly agree with Ms Cheyne that a formal, centralised arrangement would be an incredibly good thing, especially for those mothers who always thought they were going to breastfeed and who then find themselves in hospital with a baby and that is not an option for them. I strongly commend that, but I also think that we should support and encourage informal arrangements where appropriate.

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