This report presents the outcomes of a consensus workshop held on 8 December 2010 in Canberra, regarding core national breastfeeding indicators.

The purpose of the workshop was to make decisions on a set of breastfeeding indicators that would support the reporting of national breastfeeding trends, and thereby the evaluation of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010–2015 and related policies and programs. The workshop arose from a recommendation by Dr Debra Hector from the University of Sydney in her review of breastfeeding indicators conducted on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) in 2008. Because of the nature of that review—the consultation phase was conducted largely be e-mail—it was not possible to reach consensus on a set of breastfeeding indicators within the review timeframe.

Workshop attendees included those who had participated in the 2008 review; federal, state and territory government employees working in nutrition, epidemiology/health data and maternal health areas; and academics and researchers in child health.

During the workshop, a set of draft breastfeeding indicators was discussed for suitability, stability, simplicity and measurability as core national breastfeeding indicators. After extensive discussion by workshop participants, the following set of indicators was agreed:

  • proportion of children ever breastfed (for children aged 0–24 months)
  • proportion of children breastfed at each month of age, 0–24 months
  • proportion of children exclusively breastfed to each month of age, 0–6 months
  • proportion of children predominantly breastfed to each month of age, 0–6 months
  • proportion of children receiving soft/semi-solid/solid food at each month of age, 0–12 months
  • proportion of children receiving non-human milk or formula at each month of age, 0–12 months.

This agreement on a set of indicators in no way implies commitment of resources to data collection and reporting. However, an agreed set of indicators does provide the platform for consistent collection and reporting should a decision be made to report on these.

Formalisation of the indicator specifications is subject to appropriate information governance processes. Through the Population Health Information Development Group (a working group of the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council), the AIHW and DoHA have initiated a project to formalise the specifications, leading to the specifications being added to METeOR—the national health metadata registry.