Helen O’Callaghan says mothers need to rediscover breastfeeding.
XPOSÉ star and mum of two Karen Koster acknowledges it can be daunting to breastfeed in public.
“You’re so worried you’ll be told to cover up or asked to leave,” says the 35-year-old TV presenter, who breastfed son Finn, 17 months, and continues to breastfeed three-month-old baby JJ.
But whatever about other people’s attitudes, she herself doesn’t feel any embarrassment about feeding JJ “anywhere and everywhere” and puts this down to having babies in her 30s.
“My baby crying overrules any awkwardness I might feel. Having babies in my 30s means I’m less inhibited than I might have been in my 20s. I’m going to feed my baby no matter where I am.”
Karen is ambassador for the just launched ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ mark, developed by First 1,000 Days to help change Irish attitudes towards breastfeeding in public.
A consortium of Irish businesses — cafes, restaurants, pharmacies, shopping centres, and professional healthcare bodies — have backed the introduction of the mark.
Among those vowing to display it prominently is the café chain Insomnia, which will display it in its 60-plus outlets throughout Ireland.
Research from 2010 found embarrassment to be the top barrier to breastfeeding in Ireland and — says Michelle Gray, First 1000 Days Dietitian — the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ mark is a first step in attempting to end this unease.
In Ireland, the number of mothers still exclusively breastfeeding by six months is as low as 6%.
“We lost the art and trend of breastfeeding here a couple of generations ago. Breastfeeding’s so alien to women, especially if their own mum or sisters haven’t done it,” says Gray, who says women fear exposing their breasts in public.
“When a woman’s breastfeeding, you don’t actually see a lot of the breast. If you do, you’re looking too hard.
"Some women feel others will think they’re putting on an exhibition or making a statement when all they’re doing is feeding their little hungry baby in the most natural way possible.”
The First 1000 Days project aims to drive awareness amongst expectant parents and new parents about the importance of nutrition during the first 1000 days of life, from conception until a child’s second birthday.
The plan spans four key stages of development: pregnancy, breastfeeding, weaning, and toddler-hood.
Businesses wishing to display the ‘breastfeeding welcome here’ mark should visit www.first1000days.ie/bfw
* Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learned. Contact an ante-natal teacher, public health nurse, GP or midwife.
* Diet affects nutritional composition of breast milk. Eat two portions of oily fish weekly and take daily 5mg vitamin D supplement
* If you feel uncomfortable, throw a scarf/shawl over your shoulder while feeding in public.
Take it day by day. The word is it gets easier.
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