Posts Tagged ‘ breastfeeding in public ’

TV Stars Keep Breastfeeding In Focus

This week saw two Irish TV shows highlighting the attitudes of many Irish people towards breastfeeding in Ireland.  After the recent debates following from a very controversial Time Magazine cover, our low breastfeeding rates in Ireland have come to the forefront.  It would seem that the opinions of Irish people surrounding breastfeeding, our reluctance to openly discuss breastfeeding, and our attitudes towards when it is deemed appropriate to wean a child off the breast, all contribute to our poor success rates in breastfeeding.

On discharge from hospital, less than half of all Irish babies are exclusively breastfed, and this rate drops to only 3% by the time a child is six months.  Considering that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, following by continued breastfeeding to a minimum of two, why is it that rates in Ireland are so low? As we live in a developed and well educated country, where access to information about breastfeeding is readily available, and the health benefits are so well known, could it be that we don’t consider breastfeeding socially acceptable, and could this be lending itself to low success rates?

The current series of “Come Dine with Me Ireland” aired this week and was set in County Cavan.  On the fourth night, land lady and fussy eater Lorraine brought up the fact that she breastfed her two children, the first for five years and the second for four and a half years.  She was open in her admissions that she would have fed her children anywhere, including restaurants and at mass.  This declaration led to a heated debate about whether breastfeeding in public was acceptable, and a fellow contestant even went so far as to advise that the children should have been fed in the car rather than in public view in a restaurant.

In the private interviews later, Lorraine’s peers labelled her extended breastfeeding as “strange” and “not normal”.  As the average weaning age worldwide is four, it is fair to say that Lorraine is closer to the global norm than 97% of the Irish populace, and hence is more “normal” than most.  The reaction of the contestants towards public breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding are representative of the attitudes of Irish people and testimony to the fact that it is the mind-set of our citizens that is negatively affecting our breastfeeding rates.

On the new series, “Dublin Housewives”, we saw Virginia Macari welcome her son, Troy Sebastian into the world.  He was a gorgeous healthy baby, whom Virginia successfully and openly breastfed.  She discussed her desire to breastfeed even before Troy was born, and when later out for a girls’ lunch with her six week old son in tow, she continued to discuss the fact that she was breastfeeding.  Her co-star from the show, clinician Danielle Meagher, was animated in her attempts to get the ladies to cease their discussions around breastfeeding, and even went so far as to say that she was cringing as it was the discussion was turning into “My Big Fat Gypsy Breastfeeding Wedding” or “”.

Whilst Virginia was showing herself to be a great role model for breastfeeding, discussing how she expressed and proving that it doesn’t have to impact on your social life, Danielle was representing the other portion of the population who have overly sexualised the breast and refuse to discuss what is the most normal and beneficial activity a new mother can engage in.

Both of these programmes are continuing to keep breastfeeding in focus and this can only be seen as a good thing in a country where we so desperately need to improve our breastfeeding rates.  The downside to this, however, is that any susceptible or naïve people may take on board the negative attitudes that have been represented.  The ill-treatment which both starring breastfeeding women were subjected to is unjust and shameful and the reactions of the characters are indicative of the attitudes of many Irish people today.  Let the breastfeeding exposure continue and hopefully a sizeable shift in our breastfeeding culture will follow.

Come Dine with Me Ireland and Dublin Housewives may be viewed on