DONEGAL has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Ireland and the world, according to the latest data from the HSE. Donegal is currently the only county in Ireland where less that 35% of mothers are breastfeeding their babies.
Meanwhile, Ireland comes in last when mothers from Europe, Africa, Asia and America are ranked in terms of breastfeeding. In light of last week’s National Breastfeeding Week, the Donegal News spoke to Deirdre Fitzpatrick, leader of the Letterkenny Ciudiu Breastfeeding Support Group.
Deirdre, who also runs antenaetal classes, walking groups for mothers and a successful Youtube channel, said while the numbers of mothers in Donegal breastfeeding are low, she has saw an increase over the last few years.
“Donegal has the lowest rates in the country for the amount of mothers that breastfeed, and Ireland have the lowest rates in the world, so you can say Donegal has the lowest amount of mothers that breastfeed. Despite this, I can definitely see an increase and it is on the rise. There is so much more support out there and so many groups and online support. Women can get support everywhere from meet-up groups to support from their phone, and it’s definitely getting more and more popular.” she added.
An advocate for breastfeeding, Deirdre outlined some of the benefits of it, and not just health related. “While there are lots of health benefits out there with regards to breast feeding, there are so many more particle benefits. Donegal currently has the lowest rate of income in Ireland, which would make you think more women would be breastfeeding. It costs nothing, it’s completely free.
“The cost of bottle feeding is quite significant when you add up bottles, the tins of milk, the electricity to boil the kettle, the petrol you use when you have to scoot out and buy a new tin, it all adds up. Adding to the practicality, when your breastfeeding you don’t have to spend time preparing bottles, which can be a nuisance in the middle of the night. The baby doesn’t have to wait around and get more and more frustrated, you don’t have to even fully wake the baby up which adds to a better night sleep for everyone. Co-sleeping gets a lot of bad press but it is the biological norm.
“It also gives you special time to bond with the baby and become acclimatised to each other. Get someone else to clear up the kitchen or play host to visitors and sit down on the couch and spend that quality time with your baby.” she continued.
Donegal currently hosts 15 support groups in locations over the county for mothers who are breastfeeding. Deirdre said having National Breastfeeding Week (October 1st -7th) is a great way to draw attention to it, and show mothers there is support out there if they are considering it.
“It’s nice to have the national week designated for it, to draw awareness to it and let mothers know that there is support out there. That’s why I set up my groups. Some women might feel embarrassed or afraid to breast feed in public, but I think we are in our own heads too much and we fear the thought of it more than actually doing it.
“I remember the first time I breastfed in public and I was so scared. It was in a busy shopping centre and the baby needed fed, no one wants to listen to a crying baby. I was worried everyone would look, but nothing happened. Everyone got on about their own way and no one even noticed. Two separate mothers walked past and nodded to me, as if to say ‘good for you!’ for going ahead and doing it. I think we worry about it more than we should.” she said.
In Ireland, 58% of mothers are breastfeeding their babies on discharge from maternity hospital according to recent figures from the HSE. They said in the first few days and weeks at home, mothers may experience challenges which often prompt them to stop breastfeeding sooner than they planned. Deirdre agreed with this, and said sometimes mothers may feel obliged to pick bottle feeding over breast.
“I spoke to a mother recently at one of my groups who said she felt she gave up breast feeding too early and she ended up going back to it after two weeks of bottle feeds. I think a lot of mothers feel like that. When they have just given birth in hospital and are feeling overwhelmed and end up just going with bottle feeds because they want the baby to feed as soon as possible.
“And then once they have started the baby on bottle feeds they feel like they can’t ever go back to trying breast feeding, but they most certainly can. It is absolutely possibly to go back and try breastfeeding in the early days.” concluded Deirdre.
For more information on breastfeeding visit www.douladee.ie.