New mothers born outside Ireland are more likely to breastfeed their babies than Irish women, it emerged today.
A new survey revealed just over half of all mums are now breastfeeding their babies, with the new Irish leading the way.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) launched National Breastfeeding Week with a series of leaflets and resources to give expectant women more information on support.
Aine Brady, junior minister for health promotion, said breastfeeding is not just a lifestyle choice.
“It is a very important health issue for babies, their mothers and families,” said Ms Brady.
“It is also a social, economic and environmental issue that has positive implications for our society and its future.”
The national infant feeding survey examined rate and duration of breastfeeding, the factors influencing women, and the reasons given by women for stopping. It found:
* Women breastfed as a child, or whose friends breastfeed, were more likely to.
* Those who attended antenatal classes were more likely to breastfeed but almost one third said it was not discussed with them during their pregnancy.
* The highest breastfeeding rate was recorded in Dublin south east, 78%, with the lowest rates in Waterford and Louth at just 38%.
Elsewhere, it showed eight out of 10 women who moved to formula feeding when their baby was three to four months old said they would have liked to have breastfed for longer.
However, they felt it was incompatible with their lifestyle, that they had insufficient milk supply, or blamed the lack of facilities and discomfort of feeding in public.
Experts maintain breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mother and baby.
Babies are said to be less likely to suffer from gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, urinary tract and ear infections, asthma, eczema and childhood diabetes.
Mothers have lower risks of being diagnosed with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
Maureen Fallon, national breastfeeding co-ordinator, said there are many reasons why breastfeeding makes sense.
“It does take a little time in the early days and weeks but once established most mothers say breastfeeding is hugely fulfilling, enjoyable and convenient,” she said.
“Breastfeeding is nature’s perfect takeaway food – when you want to go out with your baby all you need to think about is grabbing a spare nappy, some wipes and you’re all set.”