Only 50% of newborns breastfed as mothers forgo health benefits

Just one mother in 40 exclusively breastfeeding by time baby is six-seven months

Breastfeeding is linked to a range of health benefits for newborn babies and mothers. Photograph: Getty Images

Breastfeeding is linked to a range of health benefits for newborn babies and mothers. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Barely half of women giving birth in Irish maternity hospitals breastfeed at birth and one-third of these give up within a fortnight, a new national survey shows.

By the time their baby is six-seven months, just one mother in 40 is exclusively breastfeeding, as recommended in international guidelines, the study found.

Irish mothers are less likely to initiative breastfeeding than women of other nationalities giving birth here, the study published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science shows. By three-four months, only 16 per cent of Irish women are exclusively breastfeeding.

The authors, from the school of nursing and midwifery in Trinity College Dublin, question the effectiveness of the national breastfeeding promotion strategy. They say the strategy appears to have had relatively little impact, and suggest any increase in overall breastfeeding rates is due to increased immigration of nationalities with higher rates.

Exclusively breastfeeding

The younger a mother is, the less likely she is to begin breastfeeding. In contrast, mothers aged 40-44 years are most likely to be exclusively breastfeeding after three-four months.

More than 2,500 mothers attending all the State’s maternity units were surveyed. The study looked at breastfeeding rates in the first 48 hours after birth, after three-four months and after six-seven months.

Just 56 per cent of mothers initiated breastfeeding at birth and by 48 hours, this figure had dropped to 42 per cent. At six-seven months, only 2.4 per cent of mothers were breastfeeding exclusively. Irish mothers were less likely to initiate breastfeeding (52.6 per cent), compared to more than 82 per cent among Polish women and 64.5 for British mothers.

Breastfeeding is linked to a range of health benefits for newborn babies and mothers.