Traditionally, the Australian Aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers and breastfeeding was universal and prolonged. European colonisation, and the subsequent loss of traditional lands disrupted this hunting and gathering existence and the ensuing years of European settlement saw a gradual drift of Indigenous clans from their nomadic lifestyle to settlement in, or on the fringes of, rural towns and major cities. This increasing urbanisation was accompanied by a decline in traditional feeding practices, and today Indigenous mothers are less likely to initiate breastfeeding than non-Indigenous mothers. However, Indigenous mothers in remote communities are more likely to breastfeed than Indigenous mothers living in urban areas and continue to breastfeed for longer than both urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. Infections (mainly respiratory, gastrointestinal and otitis media) are far more prevalent in Indigenous children than non-Indigenous children. Breastfeeding is one way to ensure that short- and long-term health benefits are passed onto Indigenous children and should be actively promoted and supported as a means of closing the gap between the health outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children and adults.
- Australian Aboriginal people
- Breastfeeding practices
- Indigenous mothers and children