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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.