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Early years

01st Nov 2020

New report finds Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world

Trine Jensen-Burke

Ireland's breastfeeding rates

Breastfeeding has incredible health benefits for both mums and babies.

However, according to a brand new report, Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with only two out of three women initiating it before leaving the maternity hospital.

In one smaller Irish maternity unit, just one in three women try breastfeeding their newborn during their stay, according to the Irish Maternity Indicator System 2019 national report.

This is very low when compared to, for instance, Scandinavia, where breastfeeding initiation is consistently around 98 percent.

According to the report, nationally, 63.8 percent of mums in Ireland initiate breastfeeding at their baby’s first feed, compared with rates of 90 percent in Australia,  81 percent in the UK and 79 percent in the US.

On hospital discharge, just 37.3 per cent of mothers in this country are breastfeeding, with one maternity unit recording a rate of under 20 percent, the 2019 figures show.

In other words, last year, only 19,076 out of 51,152 babies born in 18 out of 19 maternity units were being exclusively breastfed on discharge from the maternity hospital, figures which Pro Michael Turner, clinical lead at HSE national programme for obstetrics, describe as ‘disappointing.’

The World Health Organisation recommends that newborns should be exclusively breastfed up until six months of age, but also recognise that breastmilk is beneficial until children reach their second birthday.

However, according to the most recent figures, only 13 percent of Irish babies are breastfed after six months, compared with a European average of 25 percent and a global average of 38 percent.