Notes on the data: Mothers and babies

Fully breastfed babies at 3 months or at 6 months, or babies who first ate soft, semi-solid or solid food before 4 months of age, 2014-15


Policy context:  Breastfeeding is increasingly associated with a wide range of benefits to both the mother and the child. Benefits to the mother include accelerated recovery from childbirth and reduced risk of certain cancers [1]. Child benefits include reduced risk of certain childhood illnesses and infections, improved visual acuity and psychomotor development, reduced risk of Type 1 diabetes and some childhood cancers, and higher IQ scores [1][2]. Current guidelines are for infants to be exclusively breastfed up to 6 months of age, with combined solid food and breastfeeding until 12 months of age.


  1. National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), 2003, Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia incorporating the Infant Feeding Guidelines for Health Workers. Available from:; last accessed 27/3/2017.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Breastfeeding, Australian Health Survey: Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions, 2011-12, Available from:; last accessed 27/3/2017

Notes:  In the absence of data from administrative data sets, estimates are provided for selected health risk factors from the 2014–15 National Health Survey (NHS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Estimates at the Population Health Area (PHA) level are modelled estimates produced by the ABS, as described below (estimates at the Local Government Area (LGA) and Primary Health Network (PHN) level were derived from PHA estimates).

Users of these modelled estimates should note that they do not represent data collected in administrative or other data sets. As such, they should be used with caution, and treated as indicative of the likely social dimensions present in an area with these demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

The numbers are estimates for an area, not measured events as are, for example, death statistics. As such, they should be viewed as a tool that, when used in conjunction with local area knowledge and taking into consideration the prediction reliability, can provide useful information that can assist with decision making for small geographic regions. Of particular note is that the true value of the published estimates is also likely to vary within a range of values as shown by the upper and lower limits published in the data (xls) and viewable in the bar chart in the single map atlases.

What the modelled estimates do achieve, however, is to summarise the various demographic, socioeconomic and administrative information available for an area in a way that indicates the expected level of each health indicator for an area with those characteristics. In the absence of accurate, localised information about the health indicator, such predictions can usefully contribute to policy and program development, service planning and other decision-making processes that require an indication of the geographic distribution of the health indicator.

The response rate of around 85% provides a high level of coverage across the population; however, the response rate among some groups is lower than among other groups, e.g., those living in the most disadvantaged areas have a lower response rate than those living in less disadvantaged areas. Although the sample includes the majority of people living in households in private dwellings, it excludes those living in the most remote areas of Australia; whereas these areas comprise less than 3% of the total population, Aboriginal people comprise up to one third of the population in these areas. This and other limitations of the method mean that estimates have not been published for PHAs with populations under 1,000, or with a high proportion of their population in:

  1. non-private dwellings (hospitals, gaols, nursing homes - and also excludes members of the armed forces);
  2. in Very Remote areas;
  3. in discrete Aboriginal communities; and
  4. where the relative root mean square errors (RRMSEs) on the estimates was 1 or more (estimate replaced with ≠)


  1. Estimates with RRMSEs from 0.25 and to 0.50 have been marked (~) to indicate that they should be used with caution; and those greater than 0.50 but less than 1 are marked (~~) to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for general use.
  2. For the Primary Health Network (PHN) data, differences between the PHN totals and the sum of LGAs within PHNs result from the use of different concordances.

The modelled estimates for the following indicators are based on models containing a small number of predictor variables than available for other modelled estimates. The ABS advise that reasons for this may include a low sample count for the outcome variable and/or small variation/similar characteristics within the sample for the outcome variable. Caution should be applied when interpreting the modelled estimates for these outcome variables, as it is possible that the sample is not representative of the total population within these characteristics of interest.

Indicator detail

Fully breastfed babies at 3 months, 2014 to 2015

  • The data comprise the estimated number of babies aged 3 to 24 months who were fully breastfed at 3 months of age.

Fully breastfed babies at 6 months, 2014 to 2015

  • The data comprise the estimated number of babies aged 6 to 24 months who were fully breastfed at 6 months of age.

Babies who first ate soft, semi-solid or solid food before 4 months of age

  • The data comprise the estimated number of babies aged 3 years or under who first ate soft, semi-solid or solid food before 4 months of age.

Estimates for this indicator differ from estimates presented on the ABS website which comprise children who first ate soft, semi-solid or solid food before 5 months of age.


Numerator:  Fully breastfed babies at 3 months; Fully breastfed babies at 6 months; Babies who first ate soft, semi-solid, or solid food before 4 months of age


Denominator:  Children aged 3 to 24 months; Children aged 6 to 24 months; Children aged 0 to 3 years


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on modelled estimates from the 2014-15 National Health Survey, ABS (unpublished).


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