Mary Mitchell O'Connor: System is letting down women – and their children
The best possible nutritional option for a child in the first 1,000 days of their life is breast milk. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of Health both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and up until two years in addition to the introduction of complementary solid foods.
Research has shown that breastfeeding for 26 weeks or more is associated with a 51pc reduction in the risk of obesity. Breastfeeding can also contribute to a lifetime of good health, helping to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and help stave off type-2 diabetes in later life.
Why then, when the benefits are so profound, are only 56pc of women currently initiating breastfeeding in Ireland? This compares poorly when considered against other European countries. Figures from the UK suggest that 81pc of mothers initiate breastfeeding there. This figure soars to above 90pc in most Scandinavian states (ESRI, 2012).