HELPING MUMS DO WHAT’S NATURAL
DUNDALK GROUP OFFERS SUPPORT FOR BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS
LAST week was National Breastfeeding Week in Ireland, an event which was marked with a reception in Áras an Uachtarain, but for many mums around the country, every week is breastfeeding week.
Here in Dundalk, a group of mums who are breastfeeding their babies, get together every Wednesday morning the Community Room at Tesco Extra, to swap stories and offer tips and support.
Blackrock native Joanne Connolly, who attended the reception in Áras an Uacharain with her youngest daughter Teagan, explains that the group was founded about ten years ago by Ina Doyle as an initiative to support breastfeeding mums.
The group now has four fully trained breastfeeding counsellors and three who are undergoing training so that there is plenty of help for new mums going along to the group.
‘We offer mum to mum support,’ says Joanne, who has breastfed all three of her children and is nearing completion of her breastfeeding counselling training with Cuidiú.
She is passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding as it provides babies with all the nutrients and antibodies they need.
‘Breastmilk is liquid gold,’ she says. ‘It’s natural and breastfeeding is natural, but like many skills, it’s something which has to be learned.’
That’s where organisations like Cuidiú and the Dundalk breastfeeding group can help.
Joanne first got involved with the group after her eldest daughter, Sophie, was born five years ago. ‘I was very keen to breastfeed and although I had no problems doing it, I decided to go along and meet other mums who were also breastfeeding,’ she recalls. ‘I found a group of women who were very welcoming. It was great to meet other mums who were also breastfeeding.’
She says that lifelong friendships are formed in the group, as women offer support and information on all sorts of things about breastfeeding and caring for young children.
‘Mums can come along for tea and a chat and if they are having a problem, they can get guidance from the breastfeeding counsellors and other mums.’
‘We see mums at every stage of their breastfeeding journey. They come with their first child, and will come back with their second and third.’
After the birth of her second child, Ruben, Joanne returned to the group and decided to enrol as a breastfeeding counsellor herself, attending classes with Cuidiú in Dublin.
She sees the role as counsellor as one of providing mums with information so that they can make their own breastfeeding choices and meet their own goals.
‘It’s all about giving information and support, offering a listening ear when needed,’ she explains.
‘Breastfeed is natural but it does take an effort so mums often need help to establish breastfeeding.’
Ireland has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, although the Institute of Public Health in Ireland reported last year that breastfeeding rates in the Republic and Northern Ireland were slowly increasing.
Figures released by the HSE in 2017 showed that while 43 per cent of Louth mums were breastfeeding at the public health nurse’s first visit, this had dropped to just over 21 per cent at three months.
Organisations such as Cuidiú and La Leche League provide support for mothers as well as advocating for facilities to make it easier for mums to breastfeed in public and to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.
‘ The law is in place that a breastfeeding mum should be able to feed her baby at any time and place but the reality is that it can be a bit daunting for women to breastfeed in public,’ says Joanne.
‘We are keen to encourage mums to breastfeed in public and to make it normal.’
She points out that there are lots of things which dads, grandparents and friends can do to make life easier for a breastfeeding mum, such as changing nappies, minding other children, cooking and helping with the housework.
Joanne Connolly (standing) with other members of the breastfeeding support group which meets in the Community Room, Dundalk Tesco Extra, every Wednesday morning.