Thursday 16 August 2018

Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are rising, according to new figures from maternity hospital

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Stock picture

Geralidne Gittens

The number of mothers who breastfeed their baby following delivery at Dublin’s Rotunda has risen.

Some 73 per cent of mothers initiated breastfeeding while at the hospital last year, according to the hospital.

This has been hailed as a “reassuring and positive step in the right direction”.

In recent years, Ireland has been found to have the lowest rate for breastfeeding in Europe.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of babies in Ireland were fed formula, and breastfeeding initiation rates at the Rotunda hospital were as low as 11pc.

Master of The Rotunda Hospital, Professor Fergal Malone said today “The Rotunda Hospital recommends breastfeeding because it is the best start in life for babies and is encouraging new mothers who might be experiencing any difficulties at home to contact the hospital’s experienced lactation midwives.”

“Some mothers find it difficult to establish a successful breastfeeding routine for a number of different reasons but with additional help, support and encouragement a number of these difficulties can be overcome.”

The Hospital is attributing this slow but steady increase in the number of mothers initiating breastfeeding to improved awareness and education and initial support from hospital staff.

However, despite this increase, the percentage of mothers breastfeeding declines steeply within the first few weeks of a baby’s life, before breastfeeding is fully established.

Professor Malone believes that his own hospital and all the maternity hospitals in the country have a crucial role to play in those first few weeks by offering women excellent post-natal support and guidance.

He said: “Ireland has a long way to go in boosting the long term rate of breastfeeding and while this is the responsibility of the maternity hospitals, it is also the responsibility of society as a whole.”

Some of the main reasons given for not continuing to breastfeed following the first few days and weeks include insufficient milk supply; fatigue; difficulty with breastfeeding technique; nipple pain and poor latch; lack of freedom; return to work; not wanting to breastfeed and embarrassment as a result of negative societal attitudes towards breastfeeding.

 According to the Rotunda hospital, dads, partners, friends and family can help breastfeeding mums by:

 •Giving encouragement and support;

•Preparing drinks, snacks and meals. When dad returns to work, he can help mum by leaving out breakfast, water and other essentials she might need;

•Assisting with bathing and nappy changing;

•Helping out with housework, laundry, grocery shopping and cooking;

•Minding and entertaining older children; and knowing where to get breastfeeding information and support.

 Breastfeeding facts and stats:    

 •Children who do not breastfeed have a higher incidence and severity of many illnesses including respiratory tract and urinary tract infection, gastroenteritis, otitis media, diabetes, SIDS, and childhood cancers.

•Breastfeeding is a protective factor against obesity in children. The protective role of breastfeeding extends beyond childhood and prevents chronic diseases in adulthood including diabetes.

•It reduces risk of Type 1 and 2 diabetes.

•It reduces a mother’s risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes.

•It is vital in preventing Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants, which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality and neurodevelopmental impairment.

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