'More support needed' to help mothers with breastfeeding
Midwives have called for more support to encourage breastfeeding after the poor rate in Ireland was revealed in a medical study.
The 'Irish Journal of Medical Science' survey shows that just one mother in 40 is exclusively breastfeeding, and that Irish mothers are less likely to breastfeed than women from other countries.
One third of mothers who do breastfeed after birth give up within a fortnight, the study shows.
Nicola Clarke, midwife at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, said that breastfeeding rates are growing - but more resources are needed.
"In Northern Ireland, they have a lot of regional coordinators that work in certain areas but here we only have one national coordinator and very few resource people in the community who can give that extra bit of support," said Ms Clarke.
"I think the message is out there but we are living through two generations who have not breastfed, so mothers are not as familiar with it. To make it an easier option, we have to do all that we can in the hospitals and the community. We should give mothers every support and encouragement," she added.
The study's authors, from Trinity College Dublin, questioned the effectiveness of the national breastfeeding promotion strategy.
Just 56pc of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth, with the figure dropping to 42pc when the baby reaches two days old. At six to seven months, 2.4pc of mothers were breastfeeding exclusively.
Irish mothers are less likely to start breastfeeding, compared to more than 80pc of Polish mums and 64.5pc for British women.
A younger Irish mother is also less likely to breastfeed.
"We would always recommend that all infants are breastfed up until six months with appropriate weaning foods and now many health centres are running support services to try and promote breastfeeding," said Ms Clarke.
More than 2,500 mothers attending all the State's maternity units were surveyed for the study.
Breastfeeding is linked to a range of health benefits for newborns and their mums, said Ms Clarke.
"We have to think of the fact that obesity is a growing concern and breastfeeding helps to reduce obesity for the mother and the baby in later life," she said.