Initiative aims to increase breastfeeding rate
Family members were today urged to help create a supportive environment to aid breastfeeding mothers.
As part of National Breastfeeding Week both fathers and grandparents were given more information on breastfeeding as part of a campaign to encourage women to choose the healthier option.
Maureen Fallon, National Breastfeeding Co-ordinator in the Department of Health, said breastfeeding was what nature had intended for newborn babies but the numbers breastfeeding among Irish mothers was low.
Ireland's breastfeeding rate of 43 per cent at discharge from maternity care is one of the lowest in Europe — compared with 99 per cent in Norway. "It is hugely low, every baby goes to the breast in Norway.
There is a rate of 99% at discharge from hospitals in Norway and Sweden and most are still breastfeeding at three months," she said. "It is perfectly natural. It meets all the needs in terms of survival."
As part of the campaign 'Families Supporting Breastfeeding' running from October until 7th, support for breastfeeding is being encouraged among all members of the family. Ms Fallon said: "There has been some research showing the importance of partner and maternal grandmother support is very significant."
An Australian study has shown women are 10 times more likely to breastfeed if their partners are supportive. Ms Fallon said a leaflet had been drawn up by the Health Service Executive to help inform family members as to the facts and importance of breastfeeding.
"The levels are increasing slowly but we need to increase the support for breastfeeding not just inside families but outside as well, so that mothers have support," she said. Health Minister Mary Harney will open a national conference on breastfeeding in the Croke Park Conference Centre on Friday as part of National Breastfeeding Week.
The conference 'Breastfeeding in a Bottle Feeding Culture' will hear from Dr Jack Newman, a Toronto-based paediatrician and breastfeeding expert.
Ms Fallon said research has shown breastfed babies are five times less likely to get gastroenteritis, three times less likely to get chest infections, ear infections and kidney infections.
They are also less likely to get diabetes, asthma, eczema, obesity, heart disease. She stressed that the benefits last a lifetime with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels detected in adults who were breastfed as babies.
The benefits for mothers in breastfeeding include they are less likely to bleed after birth and their pre-pregnancy figures come back quicker. Women also benefited from protection against certain cancers and were less likely to get osteoporosis as well.