WE had a baby boom in the recession but now the number of births in Ireland is on a downward spiral.
Statistics from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) show that the amount of babies born in this country fell further last year.
The most recent figures show that just 72,000 babies were born in 2012, down more than 3pc on 2011.
It has dropped from a high of 16.8 per 1,000 population in 2008 to 16.2 per 1,000 in 2011 and 15.6 per 1,000 in 2012.
The EU average stands much lower at a rate of 10.4 per 1,000 population.
Despite this, Ireland's birth rate remains the highest in Europe. But Irish women are officially putting off having babies later in life.
The average age of mums was just under 32 in 2012, compared to an average age of 30.6 years a decade ago.
ESRI Professor Miriam Wiley said the slowing in birth rates last year could be due to a number of factors such as choice and age of the mother.
"Birth rates go up and down in time of recession . . . the fact that we're seeing the slight ageing suggests a postponement factor," she explained.
Meanwhile, the rate of teenagers having babies has fallen with the number of women aged under 20 giving birth now down to 2pc compared to 5pc in 2003.
The number of babies born in Ireland has been declining since 2009 when 76,000 births were recorded.
Additionally, the mortality rate among babies in Ireland continues to decline. In 2012 it was just 5.9 per 1,000 live and still births.
This figure is significantly lower than 2003 which saw the figure at 8.6 per 1,000 live and still births.
The highest mortality rates were among babies born to mothers aged 40 to 44.
Breastfeeding levels remain low, with 40pc of babies being breast-fed compared to 75pc for babies born to mothers from Europe and America.
The UK follows Ireland with a rate of 12.8 per 1,000 and France at 12.6 followed by Sweden at 11.9 and Cyprus at 11.8.
Germany had the lowest birth rate in Europe last year at 8.4 per 1,000 population.