'Mums need help for breastfeeding drive to work', say doctors
The number of first-time mothers breastfeeding will remain stubbornly low unless more education and support are provided, a new study has warned.
Doctors at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin examined the factors contributing to non-exclusive breastfeeding in mothers.
The study collected and analysed maternal demographics and antenatal, perinatal and delivery-related information as well as neonatal outcomes.
It found that factors influencing first-time mothers not breastfeeding were higher body mass index, unemployment, an Asian background, gestational diabetes, antenatal steroids, low birth weight and hypernatremia, a condition caused by a decrease in body water relative to electrolyte content.
Gestational diabetes, low birth weights and hypernatremia remained significantly associated with non-exclusive breastfeeding on hospital discharge.
Nearly 570 eligible mothers took part in the study, and out of the 416 intending to breastfeed, 278, or 67pc, were exclusively breastfeeding at discharge.
The study co-authors found that addressing barriers to breastfeeding through antenatal and early neonatal education, counselling and support may increase the number of infants exclusively breastfed on discharge.
The study, which is published in the current edition of the Irish Medical Journal, says exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is recommended to support infants' nutritional needs and immature immune systems.
"In addition, breastfeeding has a protective role for mo- thers by reducing the risk of certain diseases including breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and type two diabetes," said co-author Afif El-Khuffash.
"Furthermore, it helps to maintain the special bond between a mother and her infant, which leads to less negative emotional and psychological issues related to parenting.
"The rate of exclusive breastfeeding on hospital discharge in the Republic of Ireland, although slightly improving, remains significantly lower than the European average at 48pc verses 80pc in 2017."
The study also found that women delivering naturally are more likely to start breastfeeding compared with mothers who deliver by Caesarean section.