In addition to the Australian Dietary Guidelines released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on Monday, new Infant Feeding Guidelines were also released. It is the first time separate guidelines have been available for infant feeding, with even stronger evidence related to:
- the benefits of breastfeeding
- the association between breastfeeding and a reduced risk of childhood obesity
- the importance of introducing solid foods at 6 months to meet nutritional requirements and to decrease the risk of allergy development.
The new guidelines assist health workers to provide consistent nutrition advice to mums of babies of normal birth weight. (Health workers and mothers of babies of low birth weight should seek specific medical advice).
1. The guidelines recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age when solid foods can be introduced. Estimates suggest around 90% of new mums breastfeed but the rate of breastfeeding declines to around 50% at 6 months and 25% at 12 months. The NHRMC is of the view that improving the duration of breastfeeding will give considerable benefits for maternal, infant and child health.
2. The NHMRC recommends introducing solid foods around 6 months to ensure the child’s increasing nutritional and developmental needs are met. It doesn’t matter which foods are introduced first as long as they are rich in iron. The NHMRC says that delaying the introduction of solid foods beyond this age increase the risk of the child developing allergies.
3. Breastfeeding can continue until 12 months of age and beyond if it suits the mother and child. If an infant is not breastfed or is partially breastfed, commercial infant formulas should be used as an alternative until the child is 12 months of age.
4. At 12 months of age, a variety of nutritious foods from the 5 food groups in the Australian Dietary Guidelines is recommended.
5. The NHMRC states that a mother’s decision not to breastfeed should also be respected and supported by health workers.
You can find a copy of the guidelines at eatforhealth.gov.au