Accessing Breastfeeding Support During Covid
Having a baby is undoubtedly a life-changing experience. For first-time parents in particular, there’s lots to learn – those first few weeks are usually a bit of a blur! Deciding whether to breast-feed is one of the many things mums need to consider. With less real-life support groups available due to Covid, we asked Jen Crawford, Director of DoulaCare Ireland, to share some advice for new parents.
Low Irish Rates
The first thing Jen notes is that Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Why is that? "The issue is cultural, not biological”, she begins. “In other words, it’s not that parents can't breastfeed, it’s that they don’t have the information and support to learn the skill." In countries like Norway, breastfeeding is the norm, with 98% of babies fully or partially breastfed. Here in Ireland, there’s still an element of shame and embarrassment around breastfeeding, with some mums worried about the perceived judgement of others.
“Negative attitudes towards breastfeeding in public and the workplace definitely need addressing”, says Jen. Does she think that more visibility through things like Instagram’s #normalisebreastfeeding hashtag is making parents more comfortable? “Social media is helping to start discussions, including how parents choose to feed their baby. Seeing images and videos of babies breastfeeding and understanding all the lifelong health beneﬁts can help parents to make informed choices.”
Benefits of Breastfeeding
In terms of those health benefits, breast milk is pretty amazing. “Each mother’s milk is tailored to their individual baby”, Jen explains. "It changes as their baby does and adapts to give them all the nutrition, antiviral and antibacterial factors he or she needs to thrive.” Of course, mum’s health is paramount too, and those first few months with a new baby can be tough, physically and mentally. “Mothers and their partners are on a rollercoaster when a new baby arrives”, says Jen. “Especially with Covid restrictions, many parents feel isolated and may not have as much family support. I’d suggest they do these few things to help get off to a good start:
• Take time for self-care every day
• Do your food shopping online
• Batch cook meals for busy days
• Buy lots of handy snacks you can eat with one hand
• Keep open communication with your partner / support network
• Nap as often as you can
• Seek help when needed, for both mental and physical health and wellbeing - your GP, PHN, maternity hospital and counselling services are all there to support you
• Of course, hire a DoulaCare Ireland Postpartum doula, to help you to thrive in your new role, not just survive!
Accessing Online Support
If you’re expecting or have just had a baby and would like support around breastfeeding, there’s plenty of virtual assistance available. “Cuidiu, La Leche League of Ireland and Friends of Breastfeeding all have trained breastfeeding counsellors offering virtual supports”, says Jen. “ALCI (Association of Lactation Consultants Ireland) have qualiﬁed IBCLCs offering both in-person and virtual supports. Finally, DoulaCare Ireland have Postpartum Doulas nationwide, also available in-person and virtually.”
A session with DoulaCare Ireland is available as part of the Irish Life Health maternity benefit. Find out more here.