Breastfeeding, parenting, and a natural approach to childbirth are all discussed at a two day conference in Kerry

The annual conference of La Leche League Ireland, the organisation which promotes breastfeeding, was held in at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney.  

Established in the United States in 1956 by a group of mothers who wanted to help and support other women with breastfeeding, La Leche League now has branches in over forty countries. It started in Ireland over twenty years ago and now has six hundred members.  

It's very much a family affair, with youngsters sitting in on lectures and workshops.

Although breastfeeding is its main remit, the conference also had sessions that went beyond babyhood, with topics such as food allergies, child abuse, menopausal years, coping with teenagers and a wholefood cookery demonstration.  

Breastfeeding offers many advantages over bottle feeding explains La Leche League member Anne Marie Davis. Studies have shown that breastfed babies get fewer sore throats and tonsillitis. They also and have less food allergies and tooth decay,  

Breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby.

The keynote speaker was controversial French obstetrician Dr Michel Odent, who challenges the practice of women in developed countries giving birth in a hospital setting, surrounded by all the accompanying smells, sounds, clinical routines and technology.

She can give birth more easily in a small room, in a dark place, in a silent place, with a feeling of privacy.

Fathers are also welcome at the conference David Butler explains, men play an important role in the breastfeeding process,  

We have found in Ireland that breastfeeding is very dependent on the father's support for the mother.

La Leche League has published a booklet on breastfeeding for the medical profession and is working with maternity hospitals around the country.  

Facilities in Irish shops and stores where mothers can breastfeed their babies are few and far between, but La Leche League is actively engaging with businesses to change this.  

The large majority of shoppers are mothers...it would be nice to have the facility whereby you could go in and sit down and nurse your baby.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 26 March 1986. The reporter is George Devlin.