BETTER ACCESS TO LIFE-SAVING BREAST MILK FOR PREMATURE BABIES
Thousands of premature or underweight babies will get access to life-saving donor breast milk under a Shorten Labor Government plan to roll out the Red Cross Milk Bank across Australia.
Australian women will also get the support they need to successfully breastfeed their babies for longer under a Labor commitment to deliver funding certainty for the National Breastfeeding Helpline.
Labor’s $15.2m breastfeeding package will improve the health outcomes of newborns and mothers alike.
Up to 4,000 Australian babies a year are born extremely premature – 32 weeks or earlier – or dangerously underweight.
The World Health Organisation and Department of health recommend these babies be fed donor breast milk to reduce the threat of life-threatening complications like necrotising enterocolitis, a deadly gut disease.
But only a quarter of Australian premature babies currently have reliable access to donor milk.
Even after the planned rollout of the Red Cross Milk Bank in New South Wales and South Australia, nearly half of premature babies will still not have reliable access.
So Federal Labor will invest $7 million to roll the Red Cross Milk Bank out nationally – ensuring a reliable supply of donor milk is available in all of Australia’s neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
The Red Cross estimates this will prevent up to 20 newborn deaths a year.
Parents of extremely premature babies are already under enormous pressure. The last thing they need is for their precious babies to get sick because they can’t get access to donor milk.
Labor’s investment will build on the Red Cross’ existing network – including their Sydney processing centre – with a second processing centre and distribution hub in Brisbane. We will also establish smaller satellite facilities in Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT.
Labor will also invest $8.2 million to keep the successful and valued National Breastfeeding Helpline going for the next four years.
The Liberals have repeatedly jeopardised the Helpline by threatening cuts and then only committing to funding for one year at a time.
Labor will end these silly games and give the Helpline the long-term funding certainty it needs to continue answering 6,500 calls a month and roll out new services.
We know that breastfeeding reduces infant mortality and childhood illness, and there is strong evidence to suggest it protects against chronic diseases for life.
It also improves the health of mothers by reducing rates of breast cancer and depression.
Health experts recommend mothers breastfeed for at least six months, and for up to two years if it works for them.
But while 96 per cent of mothers initiate breastfeeding only 60 per cent are still breastfeeding at six months, and rates continue to decline sharply after that.
That’s why the National Breastfeeding Helpline is so important.
Operated by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, it utilises a network of 700 trained volunteers to provide 24/7 expertise and support to breastfeeding mothers – to help them breastfeed for as long as possible.
It is shameful that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has repeatedly threatened the future of this important service and has refused to provide it with funding certainty.
Labor’s investments are part of Labor’s Fair Go Action plan to fix our hospitals and protect Medicare.
We want to ensure that all Australians have access to the health care they need, including our most vulnerable – and that our children get the best possible start in life.
SATURDAY, 30 MARCH 2019