Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Alva wasn’t diagnosed until seven months' - Dietitian Aoife Hearne reveals breastfeeding struggles ahead of film screening

Operation Transformation's Aoife Hearne wells up over John's commitment to the plan
Operation Transformation's Aoife Hearne wells up over John's commitment to the plan
Operation Transformation's dietitian Aoife Hearne. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Dietician Aoife Hearne, Operation Transformation
From left: Dietician Aoife Hearne, Fitness expert Karl Henry, Dr Sumi Dunne and Psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

A film which highlights the unethical advertising practices of a formula milk company in Pakistan is showing at an Irish cinema next week.

Tigers tells the true story of a Pakistani salesman who discovers that his company's baby formula has killed hundreds of children, and he begins a lone and dangerous battle against the company.

Operation Transformation dietitian Aoife Hearne, who is a breastfeeding advocate and a member of Baby feeding Law Group Ireland is hosting the screening, and says she wants to open up a discussion in Ireland about artificial baby milk.

Government officials will attend the screening of Tigers at Dublin’s Lighthouse cinema tomorrow April 8, while the HSE’s clinical lead for obesity Professor Donal O’Shea and other health professionals will take part in a panel discussion afterwards.

“The movie obviously is about unethical marketing practices in Pakistan,” Ms Hearne said, adding, "the whole goal is just to start discussing a little bit more of the unethical advertising practices for artificial milk. It can be a really emotive topic, and our goal is to support parents in making an informed decision.”

“We want to discuss the value of adding the the World Health Organisation's code (the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes) into Irish legislation.”

Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. In 2017, 58 per cent of mothers are breastfeeding their babies on discharge from maternity hospital. The HSE wants this to rise to 68pc by 2021.

One of the WHO code's principles is that health care facilities should not be used for the purpose of promoting breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats.

Last month, the British Medical Journal announced that it would stop carrying advertisements for formula milk.

“We’re looking to call on other professional magazines to follow suit and cease advertisements from the companies," Ms Hearne explained. "These might be professional magazines to GPs, dietitians, nurses and midwives, they’re considered educational magazines.”

“Also, we see that a lot of professional continued education that’s required is actually sponsored by these companies.”

“Even if you look at the vast array of infant products, the mind boggles. You look at the difference of the most expensive or the cheapest, and you’re wooed into buying the more expensive product that you believe is going to be best for your child, which is not true (all milks must meet certain nutritional requirements).”

She added: “We need to look at this as a societal change, to create an environment that makes it easy for mothers to breastfeed, to continue to breastfeed on their return to work, and to get support. It’s not about ‘pushing’ breastfeeding on women. If a woman chooses not to breastfeed and has informed herself with unbiased information, that is absolutely her right and I would absolutely stand by any woman who chooses to do that.”

Ms Hearne, who is currently breastfeeding her 10-month-old baby said she had to seek professional help while she was breastfeeding two of her children.

“I had my first baby in 2013 and the whole world of breastfeeding and advertising was new to me and the more I saw what was going on the more I wanted to be involved in making some change in Ireland.”

“My first breastfeeding experience was relatively easy, then my two girls had tongue ties, Alva wasn’t diagnosed until seven months and that was a real struggle of a journey. With my second girl Zoe I knew what to look out for and it was diagnosed at four days.”

“With Ailbhe, if it had been my first journey, I might have given up. What we really want to tell women is 'don’t give up on a bad day'.”

“Most times when breastfeeding mothers are struggling, they don’t want the bottle to be the solution.”

She added: “I’m self-employed, I had to go back to work earlier than I would have liked but I have continued to breastfeed.”

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