The finale of the National Breast Feeding week included an All-Ireland Conference that opened up a host of attitudinal challenges that pose a major hurdle to ensuring more number of breast fed babies. Among western countries, Ireland has one of the lowest breast feeding rates.
Internationally acclaimed breastfeeding specialist, Dr Jack Newman of the University of Toronto, said, "In the case of infant feeding, if that reality is 'bottle feeding is the norm', it is impossible to understand breastfeeding. Once a woman is ready to have children or is pregnant and/or breastfeeding, the bottle feeding model continues to prevail."
According to him bottle feeding is almost a trend embedded in the cultural psyche. Catherine Murphy of the HSE reiterated the impact of cultural influences that has become a key deterrent to breast feeding. "This results in many myths developing which become sustained because only a minority are engaged in breastfeeding and can pass on that valuable 'how to' knowledge from mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend and so on", Ms Murphy added.
Breast feeding is mutually beneficial. Most breast fed babies are protected from gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, ear infections and eczema, while mothers who breastfeed are at a low risk for developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.