The demographics of breastfeeding

December 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

In 2006, Australian health ministers agreed to a headline indicator on infant feeding. It is this: The proportion of infants that are exclusively breastfed at four months of age.

Australian and World Health Organisation guidelines for infant nutrition currently recommend “exclusive breastfeeding” for the first six months of a baby’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding means that human breastmilk is the only source of nourishment. (The method of delivery – breast or bottle – doesn’t matter.)

So how’s that working out?

Today the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the first Australian National Infant Feeding Survey.

At the four month mark, only 27% of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed. By five months that figure drops to 15% and at six months of age only 2% of babies have breastmilk as their only source of nourishment.

Maybe “exclusive” breastfeeding is a bit too strict a target. Let’s drill down a bit, and look at infants that are “predominantly” breastfed. What that means is, breastmilk is the predominant source of nourishment. (The definition also allows for consumption of water, cordial (!), juice (!) and medicines. But no formula.)

At four months of age, 35% of infants are “predominantly” breastfed.  At five months, 21% and by six months of age only 4% of babies are predominantly breastfed.

Given the government’s position, these figures seem, well, low. They’re low.

Worryingly, there’s a whole basket of demographic measures that  increase (or decrease) the likelihood that a mother’s infant will be breastfed.

Younger mothers, mothers with less education, mothers with lower incomes, indigenous mothers, mothers who smoke, mothers who are obese (Obese? Why did they even test for this?)…The babies of women with these characteristics are much less likely to be predominantly breastfed at that four month mark.

And in some cases the gap is huge. The babies of mothers over 35 years of age are 2.5 times more likely (39.3%) to be predominantly breastfed at four months old than the babies of mothers under 24 years of age (16.4%). Something for Dr Barry Walters to consider.

There is some good news. Breastfeeding is “initiated” for 96% of babies. At six months, 60% of infants are still receiving “some” breastmilk.

But breastfeeding rates are diverging along socio-economic lines.

What’s going on here? And what can, or should, we do about it?


Mount Tennent

December 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

It is a peculiar quirk of my personality that, given the choice between doing very little and quite a lot actually, I tend to choose quite a lot.

And so I climbed a mountain this morning. You know those psych tests where you have to choose one of two options, even though you hate them equally? You could profile me in a statistically significant way using action and inaction couplets. Presented with a choice of:

(A) Climb mountain
(B) Lie on couch

I am 75% likely to choose (A). I know, stupid.

Mount Tennent, in the lovely and underrated Namadgi National Park, is just under 1400 metres above sea level, which is embarrassingly short. But kind of a big deal in Australia where our mountains top out at around 2200 metres. It’s a massive torso of granite squatting imposingly at the bottom end of the ACT, the little village of Tharwa at its feet. I have wanted to climb it for AGES.

Here’s the thing: it’s hard. You gain 800 metres of height in only about 7 kilometres of distance. There are lots of steep, rocky, technical bits as well as stretches of alpine meadow and fire trail.

Richard is an ultra runner which means “I’ll be gone for HOURS!” and also means that there are energy bars in the house, so I took one of those and 750 ml of water (not enough) and a mandarin I found lying around. His next event is the Bogan to Hotham, Australia’s toughest mountain race for people who drive powerful Aussie sedans.

What? Oh. Well it sounds like Bogan to Hotham.

The route is decorated with tiny wildflowers (including weird miniature daisies that looks like they are in ultraviolet light) and wombat poop. Not just anywhere, either. Apparently wombats like to shit right on the tops of small boulders which, if you can picture a wombat, is pretty fierce. That means awesome. Clearly they have nothing better to do than hang out with their mates all:

Dude. Check this out. I bet you I can balance a shit on that rock.
Whatever, hairy arse, bring it.
~seconds pass~

The final kilometre never. ends. I was saving my snacks for the summit, but I started to hallucinate wildly about sugar, so I pulled out my mandarin and ate one segment each 10 metres. And then, about a pip’s throw from the top I choked on some mandarin and thought how embarrassing my memorial would be if I died right then and there like Mallory.

Leonie Doyle
DIED 17.12.11
Choked on mandarin
Didn’t make it

But I did! And so did Mallory, probably. Hurrah!

The view, of course, was astounding.When I got to the top I first looked out to the south-west to the Australian Alps, which aren’t like Alps at all really, but beautiful and rugged with their bumpy, exposed plateaus. Then I turned around and looked back towards Canberra and I actually took a dramatic breath. It was just so like flying.


Time: 2 hours up, 1.5 hours down. Map says 6 hours. FIT AS BUGGERY.
Ate: Winners bar, mandarin and sunscreen.
Recommended for: Moderately fit people. Or moderately unfit people who are prepared to put the hard work in. And maybe sleep out for a night.

Rather than Approaching another woman

December 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I found this rant stuck to a huge sculpture in Woden the other day.

I actually tried to steal it, but it wouldn’t come off. Do you have any idea how undignified it is to be scratching at the corners of a bit of paper that is glued high up in a very public place and having tiny little bits tearing off it and getting nowhere? Of course you do. This poem was written by someone who has access to very good glue. Photographic credits go to Richard, who was in the vicinity when I decided I needed a copy of it. Email log:

Me: Don’t forget to photograph my poem today. Or else I will have to do it.
Richard: k, though it will be a CIP.

Crappy iPhone Pic.

~time passes~
~phone rings~

Richard: Do you mean the big concrete thing in the square?
Me: Yes, I mean that thing, except it’s metal.
Richard: Metal?
Me: It’s silver, isn’t it?
Richard: Okay. There’s no poem.
Me: Yes there is. Look up high.
Richard: There’s just this page of typed stuff.
Me: That’s it!
Richard: It’s not a poem.

We left it there because I already felt bad about sending him to take the photograph because he stepped on a chicken the other day and injured his foot. One of those wind-up chickens that sort of hops and pecks and it is cute and hilarious for about…once. And then the rest of the time you are all “Who left that fucking chicken in the middle of the rug?”

But whatever, here it is!

Forty-six commas, in case you were wondering. Who wrote this? What does it mean? Here’s what it means:

  1. Hello, ladies. If a man asks you out, accept.  Because let’s face it.
  2. One: Macking (GOOD). Two: Lonely (BAD).
  3. Three: Lonely, plus alcoholic and schizo (TERRIBLE).
  4. Ladies. Some of you are complete sluts (GOOD), but the other half are undersexed (BAD) and one day you’ll be dead (DEAD).
  5. Don’t hook up at the pub (BAD) because the dudes there are pissed and macho and in denial (GAY). Hook up at the promenade instead. The promenade rules!
  6. Don’t laugh, assholes, you know I’m right.

In the heading, the writer vents his frustration at rejection. He allocates a capital letter to Approaching, indicating that this is an act of some significance to him. What reward does he seek? Second base, I guess. Or better. You know, whatever.

I’m not sure whether the 50% who are cowardly avoiding dating become the 90% who are sexually frustrated later on. Or are they different groups? I don’t know.

Also, the promenade thing. A promenade is “a public place for leisurely walking”. The sign is stuck to a giant sculpture in the Woden town square, which is an open area linking government buildings and shopping centre. Public servants are leisurely walking there ALL THE TIME. There is also a library, a post office and both a bus AND needle interchange just a few steps away. These are all good places to meet people.

I will stick my interpretation up next to it, in case the author wants to clarify anything.

Until then, my advice is that all Approaches made in Woden town square should be treated warily. Unless it is me asking for a leg-up so I can glue something to a sculpture.

Mark Bode’s head on a plate.

December 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

I can explain.

Because you may not know this but I went to school with Mark Bode.

And I wanted to be a journalist  too, but the school principal Brother Roger told me to write “Law” on my QTAC form because he was a cunt distant acquaintance of Lionel Murphy. Or maybe it was Lionel Bowen. I can’t remember and according to Wikipedia they are the same person anyway. So that’s what I did because Catholic schoolgirl, that’s why.

I dont know what Mark Bode wrote down on his QTAC form or whether he undertook any post-secondary education and I am not bitter about those FOUR YEARS WASTED IN LAW SCHOOL AND TWO HUNGRY YEARS OF ARTICLED CLERKSHIP, but his newspaper cadetship belongs to ME and by God one day I will have it.

Only then can I regain my journalistic birthright and take my rightful place as a part-time freelance contributor to a small regional newspaper that returns 19 results in this blog called Angry People in Local Newspapers.

Instead of my current meaningless existence.

But in the meantime I would like an avatar of his head on a plate.

Yours etc.

Look out! There’s a segway coming slowly for us.

December 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

So I rented a segway this weekend.

It has recently come to my attention that there is an on-again, off-again segway business down at the lake (the “on” and the “off” of which is apparently determined by the current level of hand-wringing by local government).

There are four big reasons to get yourself on a segway as soon as you can:

  1. Because LOL, am I right? It’s the vehicle of choice for anyone who wants to look like a complete tool.
  2. Because GOB BLUTH, one of my all-time favourite people, ever. Just once, I wanted to roll up to Richard (ZNNNNNNNN) and sneer at him menacingly but sort of nervously all, “Hello, Michael.” And then silently reverse away.
  3. Because HOW EVEN IT WORKS. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of two-wheeled transport. Big fan. I just think that wheels are supposed to be fore and aft, not port and starboard. Also I’m partial to putting a bit of effort into the propulsion of said wheels.
  4. Because DECEMBER. And I don’t think Richard has bought me anything yet, and if he sees me looking adorable on a segway, he might buy me one. And then I could ride it to work. Actually, maybe I would ride it AT work, and be all (ZNNNNNNNN) “Here is that speech you wanted” and (ZNNNNNNNN) “Please don’t leave boxes in the hallway”.

So lucky they didn't give me the GIANT WATERMELON HEAD.

So up we showed. I was bursting with questions, such as:
“What is the right way to ride a segway?”
“Can I take this segway on the highway?”
“Do I give way to segway?” and
“I think I’ve made a huge mistake.”

Okay, here’s the deal.

It’s very, very awesome.

It’s like a giant, stupid-looking, battery-powered, weightless robot that obeys your slightest movements. Rock forward and ZNNNNNNNN off you go. Rock back and slow down. Stand normally and it stays put, but with a sort of “Stopping? Are you sure?” quiver in its gimbals. Depress one hand and you spin on the spot. Shift your weight to take the corners. It’s like skiing and standing still all at once! Man becomes machine! Machine becomes man!

I never did find out what happens if you need to urgently…step off it. But George Bush did.

To summarise: This thing likes to move you. It’s slow but determined. LIKE A ZOMBIE. Which brings me to my two-word film pitch, which I believe is the shortest film pitch ever:

Zombies. Segways.


(Did you see what I just did there? Segue.)

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