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Family Matters - National Breast Feeding Week

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

- Today we are discussing common breastfeeding worries new mums have.

Grainne Ryan is here to discuss common fears new mums may have when it comes to breast feeding.

Grainne Ryan - Parenting Coach
Presenter of Baby on Board Series 2. Grainne is a public health nurse and midwife and mother of three children. Areas of interest child development, parenting issues, adolescent development and post natal depression and works as a public health nurse in Ennis Co. Clare.

Breastfeeding can be one of the most worrying times after your child is born, today we'll be chatting to seven mums who'll be telling us about they're experiences.

Breast Feeding Mums:

- Deirdre Buckley and baby Lily

- Anita Tierney and baby Alfie

- Marguerite Hannon and baby Hugo

- Jo Murphy and baby Dade

- Mary Lalor and baby Peter

- Lucretia Murphy and baby Saoirse

- Monica Grant and her twins Blaithnaid and Siofra

Statistic on breastfeeding around the world: About 50 percent of women here breastfeed on leaving hospital after giving birth compared with 78 percent in Britain, 99 percent in Norway, 98 percent in Denmark, 91 percent in Italy, 84 percent in Spain and 69 percent in France.

If you are planning to breast feed for the first time it can seem like a mystery. It really is a learned experience and like anything new we embark on in life gathering as much information prior to the event will help enormously. At your breast your baby will find the perfect nourishment for his growing body, as well as the love and security he needs for his emotional development.

Knowing that you are providing your baby with the best start in life will give you confidence in your decision to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a natural process, for most women it takes a little time to get used to. Many first time mothers may want to breastfeed their baby but are afraid that they won't be able to, won't know how to or won't be any good at it. You may feel that these doubts are "silly" or "embarrassing" but it is both natural and understandable to be a little bit nervous at first. The key to success is confidence and patience so take time to learn as much about it as you can before the arrival of your baby by gathering information, attending ante-natal classes, support groups and talking to other mums.

. Ante-natal classes organised by your chosen maternity hospital/ public health nurse will usually include separate sessions on breastfeeding and formula feeding. If you are (a) undecided about how to feed your baby; or (b) you formula-fed your previous baby and now wish to consider breastfeeding the baby you are expecting, then it is worth attending these classes for more information.

. Voluntary Support Groups such as La Leche League of Ireland and Cuidiu - The Irish Childbirth Trust welcome expectant and new mothers to meetings. These groups provide lots of information on breastfeeding, through regular meetings, books, leaflets and telephone help. They offer wonderful support as long as you want it or need it. Support groups are also an excellent opportunity to meet other mothers who are breastfeeding in a relaxed, social environment, which can make it easier for you to ask questions. It is a great idea to go along ante-natally and be in the company of mothers breastfeeding their children. This might be the first time you actually have seen a mum breastfeed! Contact your Public Health Nurse/G.P. who will be able to give you a list of support groups in your area..

Getting it right will be different for everyone. There are lots of factors which effect breastfeeding but the fact that you really want to breast feed will go a long way in having a successful outcome. Having good support from midwife/partners in the first few weeks cannot be underestimated.

What if I'm being bullied into it and I don't want to do it?
It is your decision at the end of the day. But keep in mind that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby's life will offer him lifelong health benefits that can never be recaptured. Still, your decision needn't be all or nothing. Your baby can still benefit from partial breastfeeding and from drinking expressed breast milk from a bottle.

When a pregnant lady tells me that she doesn't want to breastfeed, I try to educate her (and her partner / family members) little by little throughout the pregnancy. Many reasons for not wanting to breastfeed are based on common myths and misconceptions. If you find out all you can about nursing and still don't want to do it, at least you've made an informed choice. And for some people it just isn't for them.

What about people attitudes?
In my experience there has been an improvement in people's attitudes over the past 25years. Breast feeding has become more acceptable, rates for breastfeeding have improved and today there are shops and restaurants that are breast feeding friendly. The one thing to remember is that once you are happy to breast feed don't be influenced about other peoples opinions of breastfeeding.

How long should you breastfeed for?
Babies should be fed with breast milk only - no formula - for the first six months of life. The longer a mom and baby breastfeeds, the greater the benefits are for both mom and baby. Ideally, babies should receive breast milk through the first year of life, or for as long as both you and your baby wish. Solid foods can be added to your baby's diet, while you continue to breastfeed, when your baby is six months old. The decision to stop breastfeeding will be entirely up to you and your family circumstances.

Will my partner feel left out?
There are many opportunities for your partner to help, and it is important that he should feel part of the process of baby care and child rearing. He can do everything except breastfeed. He can help with bathing and changing your baby, winding and cuddling and getting to know his child. Once breastfeeding is established he can give your baby expressed breast milk in the bottle. He can also take the baby out for a walk in the fresh air so that you can enjoy a well earned break! Your partner's help with the house work, and the care of older children will be great help to you.

For More Information on Breast Feeding please visit