Why do some mothers in Ireland choose not to breastfeed their babies?
Many mothers in Ireland decide not to breastfeed their babies. What are the factors that influence their choice?
Cow's milk and dried milk or formula, contain high levels of sodium and phosphate which can be damaging to babies. So why do so many Irish women choose cow’s milk or formula over breast milk? Factors such as social taboos, lifestyle and the power of advertising are at play in the decision of mothers to breastfeed or not.
Cow’s milk contains three times as much salt as mother’s milk.
Alternatives to Breast Milk
Paediatricians give their views on the benefits and drawbacks of the types of baby food available as alternatives to breast milk.
Breast milk is the natural food for a newborn baby containing all the constituents required for its normal growth and development. It also has an added advantage of protecting the baby against infection.
Given the benefits of breast milk, why do as few as one in ten Irish mothers breastfeed?
For many mothers, breastfeeding is presented as a social taboo whereby they are encouraged not to breastfeed their babies "because it isn’t a nice thing to do." In addition more and more mothers are also working outside the home a situation that does not afford them the opportunity to breastfeed their babies.
La Leche League is an international organisation which promotes the benefits of breastfeeding to mother and baby. Patricia Holohan, leader of La Leche League in Ireland believes that the facilities in hospitals are not good enough and mothers are not encouraged to breastfeed. The hospitals do not allow mothers to nurse on demand, which is essential for breastfeeding. She also says that some GPs do not know very much about breastfeeding and encourage mothers to give their babies bottles.
Patricia Holohan also points to the power of advertising with powdered milk companies advertising their products in hospitals and providing free samples to mothers. All of this militates against breastfeeding.
'Seven Days’ broadcast on 20 February 1976. The reporter is Michael Ryan.