Importance of breastfeeding
The Ministry of Health recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding until at least 1 year of age or beyond. Breastfeeding is important for babies’ growth, development and health. It provides optimum nutrition, assists physical and emotional development, protects against infectious disease and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity. Breastfeeding is also important for the mother’s health, as breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and may help with weight loss.
When the infant is ready, appropriate complementary food should be introduced and breastfeeding continued. The developmental cues should be used to determine if the infant is ready. The infant will probably be ready at around 6 months of age.
Breastfeeding is recommended over feeding with expressed breast milk, and expressed breast milk is preferable to formula. Expressed breast milk provides very similar nutrient and immunological composition to breast milk from the breast although as expressed breast milk is stored the composition does change.
The advantages of breastfeeding are that it provides milk that is always at the right temperature, readily available and microbiologically safe. Breast milk fed from the breast varies in composition to meet the child’s individual and varying appetite and thirst, and hence nutrition and fluid requirements. Being breastfed allows the infant to self-regulate feeding. Breastfeeding also encourages emotional attachment between the mother and infant.
When a breast pump may be needed
For some women the ability to feed their baby breast milk relies on to the use of a breast pump. These women include those who:
- cannot breastfeed due to health or disability issues faced either by the mother or baby
- are entering or re-entering the workforce.
It is not always possible for mothers to breastfeed babies at work or to have breastfeeding breaks to enable breastfeeding at daycare/other childcare environments. Breast pumps can provide a practical solution to support the continuation of breast milk supply for the baby, and most of the nutritional benefits of breast milk will still be retained in expressed breast milk.
For information on proper handling and storage of breast milk go to Expressing breast milk and storing expressed breast milk in the Your health section.
Assistance available from district health boards
District health boards often loan breast pumps for babies in special care, or some offer a hireage service for hospital-grade breast pumps. It is not always possible to access breast pumps through these systems.
Assistance available from Work and Income
Depending on the woman’s individual circumstances and ability to meet the eligibility requirements, assistance can be made available for purchase or hire of a breast pump.
For more information, visit the Work and Income website or speak to your local office.
Purchase of a breast pump
Assistance for the purchase of a breast pump may be available through one of the following:
- Assistance to transition into employment, if the mother is returning to work
- Special Needs Grant if the mother needs one but cannot receive assistance through their DHB.
Ongoing hireage of a breast pump
If the mother or child has an ongoing disability and requires a breast pump in order to provide breast milk for the child the cost of the ongoing hire of a breast pump may be included in the calculation for:
- Disability Allowance
- Temporary Additional Support, if the applicant is already receiving Disability Allowance and if the applicants ongoing disability costs exceed the maximum rate of Disability Allowance.