Why are Irish breast­feed­ing rates so low?

Bray People - - OPINION - With Deb­o­rah Cole­man

IS teach­ing chil­dren about breast­feed­ing go­ing to help in­crease our na­tional rates? This was a sug­ges­tion put for­ward in the UK last week as World Breast­feed­ing Week took place.

Ire­land is par­tic­u­larly in need of some good PR when it comes to breast­feed­ing as we have some of the low­est rates in the world.

It also ap­pears that mums in more af­flu­ent ur­ban ar­eas are more in­clined to breast­feed, com­pared with those liv­ing in smaller, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

This I fear is a great gen­er­al­i­sa­tion and the re­al­ity is that rates across the coun­try need to in­crease and breast­feed­ing needs to be nor­malised.

We have all heard hor­ror sto­ries of mums be­ing be­rated in public for feed­ing their ba­bies but are these real or are they just ur­ban leg­ends do­ing the rounds?

If so they have been pretty ef­fec­tive in in­tim­i­dat­ing women into choos­ing not to breast­feed in public, for fear of neg­a­tiv­ity from oth­ers.

But it’s not just all about what oth­ers think. Par­ents do what they think is best and if they as chil­dren have been con­di­tioned to think that for­mula and bot­tle feed­ing is the most prac­ti­cal op­tion for feed­ing, then nat­u­rally they will opt for that.

If a woman has seen her own mother bot­tle feed then why would she ques­tion that?

It is all about ed­u­ca­tion and let­ting moth­ers know that they will have the right sup­port if they choose to breast­feed. Equally educating fu­ture gen­er­a­tions on the health ben­e­fits of breast­feed­ing will nor­malise it so that when they start hav­ing chil­dren of their own it is not a for­eign con­cept or some­thing that is the re­serve of hip­pies or earth mother types.

Pro­mot­ing breast­feed­ing is not in any way an at­tack on those who bot­tle feed be­cause at the end of the day hav­ing a baby which is fed is best but it says a lot about so­ci­ety that many women feel that breast­feed­ing would not work for them.

We need to look at the rea­sons why it is not more widely em­braced and cel­e­brated in Ire­land.

Why do so many women reach for the for­mula with­out even try­ing to breast­feed first and why do they feel that some­thing that is nat­u­ral, free and proven to be the health­i­est op­tion avail­able to them is not the best choice for them?

Why do so many women reach for the for­mula with­out even try­ing to breast­feed first?

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