Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Breast is best but lay off the pressure, Kiwis say

Many believe the pressure placed on parents to breastfeed is too heavy. Photo / Thinkstock
Many believe the pressure placed on parents to breastfeed is too heavy. Photo / Thinkstock

Three out of four New Zealanders feel mothers should breastfeed their babies if they can, but more than half also think there is too much pressure to do so.

A UMR Research poll of 750 adult New Zealanders found overwhelming support for breastfeeding. More than 70 per cent backed the method, and 80 per cent were comfortable with mothers breastfeeding in public.

But even respondents who favoured breastfeeding felt the pressure placed on parents was too heavy. The report's authors said: "It seems likely therefore that this reaction is not to the breastfeeding message as such, but to the way it is being delivered."

Breastfeeding has become a topic of national discussion in the past week after a video of All Black Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter was removed from an anti-smoking advertisement.

The Health Sponsorship Council, which made the video, had sought advice from several organisations and decided it gave an "inconsistent message".

Mothers told the Herald they had been harassed for bottle-feeding in public, and faced too much pressure to breastfeed.

Pro-breastfeeding group La Leche League copped flak for recommending that the Weepu clip be edited. The league had told the council it did not want one health message to undermine another.

Responding to criticism, La Leche director Alison Stanton rejected the portrayal of the group as bullies, and said the best advice for parents on feeding was to consult a health professional.

Maori in particular were strong believers in breastfeeding, with 79 per cent telling UMR they favoured the practice. Maori, along with mothers of young children, were also the biggest supporters of public breastfeeding.

Respondents to the survey were divided on whether mothers should make sure they do not show their breasts in public while feeding. Around 37 per cent were not concerned about flesh on display, while 40 per cent preferred breastfeeding was discreet.

The full poll: www.umr.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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