Press Release

Breastfeeding – Proven to aid the health of mother and baby

Irish Breastfeeding levels amongst the lowest in the world

The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin TD, today officially launched National Breastfeeding Week, which is taking place from October 1st to October 7th, 2003. The promotional theme for this campaign There are Reasons why Breast is Best, will see a series of events taking place that will inform and educate people as to the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child. The campaign is being strongly supported by all health professional groups, voluntary breastfeeding groups such as La Leche League of Ireland and Cuidiú-Irish Childbirth Trust. Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympic Silver Medallist and mother of two breastfed children is also endorsing the campaign. The campaign aims to increase the current levels of breastfeeding in Ireland, which are currently amongst the lowest in the world.

Speaking at the launch Minister Martin said, “There is an ever-growing body of evidence showing that breastfeeding can have a significant impact on establishing the foundation for a lifetime of optimal health and can also result in significant reductions in health spending. We all need to be consistent and unequivocal in our support of breastfeeding as it offers a critical window of opportunity to provide the best short and long-term health benefits for babies and their mothers.”

Both mothers and babies have been proven to suffer less from medical ailments as a result of breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be hospitalised with ailments including gastroenteritis, chest, ear and urinary infections. Breastfeeding in infancy also offers some protection against insulin dependent diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and allergic conditions like asthma and eczema later on. There is also some evidence that breastfed babies turn out to be more intelligent. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding, with decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer and hip fractures later in life. An additional benefit of breastfeeding for mothers is that it aids slimming after pregnancy by burning 500 calories a day, thus helping new mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.

A recent Lansdowne Market Research into breastfeeding patterns and attitudes in Ireland has revealed that 50% of Irish Mothers or mothers-to-be, feel that breastfeeding is a lot better than formula feeding, with a further 13% feeling it is a little better. However only 37% of Irish mothers breastfeed , compared to equivalent rates of 98% in Norway, 64% in the US, 99% in Greece and 71% in the United Kingdom. This deviation from international norms can be accounted for by the attitude of Irish society towards breastfeeding. Of those surveyed 51% said breastfeeding is not readily accepted in Irish society, with a further 63% stating that breastfeeding is seen as a taboo subject.