Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy.
That’s why nurse Sinead Harney has set up the cleverly named Bosom Buddies, a support group for breast-feeding mums which meets every Thursday morning in Blackrock Community Centre from 10am to 11am.
Sinead’s work as a public health nurse and lactation consultant means she is ideally placed to offer advice and support to mothers who have decided to breastfeed their babies.
Ireland has one of the lowest rates for breast feeding in Europe and have dropped since the pandemic, making the role of support groups like this more important than ever.
"The latest figures show that initial breastfeeding rates in Ireland have dropped from 63.8% in 2019 to 62.5% in 2020,” she says. "Rates were rising by 2% a year but have fell off during the pandemic.”
Normally public health nurses visit mothers in their homes after they have had their babies but this was put on hold during the pandemic.
“This highlights the importance of support for breastfeeding and how the lack of support during the COVID pandemic impacted mothers experience of breastfeeding,” she says.
She is passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.
While breastmilk is free, convenient and always on tap, the real importance lie in the health and well-being benefits it brings.
"Breastfeeding is absolutely amazing but like every else, it does come with its challenges which is why support is important.”
For babies it boosts the Immune system, helps decrease the risk of infections and childhood cancers.
Mums can benefit from increased weight loss post pregnancy, and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as decreased risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
“Breastfeeding is not just about feeding, it's about protection and connection with your baby,” says Sinead. “Breastfeeding leads to a mutual release of hormones that facilitate the mothering response and relaxes both mum and baby.”
“Support is a key to successful breastfeeding,” she says.
While almost two thirds of Irish women breastfeed their babies immediately after birth, this drops dramatically in the weeks afterwards.
"Everyone is different, for some breastfeeding can be very easy while for others it will take more of a challenge. There can be a lot of regret around it which is why support is important.”
"Mothers will have different goals. Some might just want to breastfeed their baby for a few days or weeks while others will want to continue much longer.”
The support of professionals and peers can make a huge difference for mums who are breastfeeding, particularly if it is their first time doing it.
This will be freely available at Bosom Buddies, which is open to mothers from throughout Co Louth.
"Mums can get out of the house with their babies, have a chat and I am there to give advice or answer any questions,” says Sinead.
For further information contact 042 6820009 or simply drop into Bosom Buddies any Thursday from 10am to 11am in Blackrock Community Centre.