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16th Jan 2015

Report: Just 56% of new mothers in Ireland have tried breastfeeding

In Scandinavian states, the breastfeeding rate is 90%

Katie Mythen-Lynch

Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in Europe and experts believe it’s costing the State a whopping €15 million a year in extra health care costs for the treatment of infections in infancy.

According to the Growing Up in Ireland Report, a national survey of over 4,417 women, just 56% of new mums said they had tried breastfeeding, despite the fact that breast milk contains immune-boosting antibodies that help prevent a range of illnesses, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are breastfed exclusively for six months where possible, yet half of the women who chose to bottle feed their babies admitted they believed it was better for them.

The latest figures reveal Ireland is lagging behind compared to the UK, where 81% of mothers try breastfeeding and Scandinavian states, where the the breastfeeding rate is 90%.

Women with a third-level degree were found to be 81% more likely to choose breastfeeding over formula, while younger mothers and women whose babies were born via C-section were more likely to bottle feed.

Among the 49% of women surveyed who chose bottle feeding over breast feeding, the most common gripe was the inconvenience of breastfeeding. 8% reported having had problems with expressing.

The authors of the report have called for more to be done to encourage breastfeeding after it was revealed that babies born in Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)-accredited hospitals were 11% more likely to be breastfed than those born elsewhere. One around one third of children are born in BFHI-accredited hospitals.