Quintessence Breastfeeding challenge
Last week I was asked to write an article about the Quintessence breastfeeding challenge for the Cork Evening Echo. I duly met Mairead Coughlan and Kathryn Foskin, two mums who are involved in organising the Cork Quintessence Friends of Breastfeeding Challenge taking place next Saturday Oct 4th during National Breastfeeding Week.
Given that most mothers of newborn babies are typically advised that ‘Breast is Best’, why are only 56% of Irish mothers currently breastfeeding, according to ESRI statistics of 2012, compared to 81% in the UK and 90% across Europe?
“The first 6 to 8 weeks are the hardest,” said Kathryn, “You can experience difficulties but it gets easier as both baby and mum get better at it. The rewards are absolutely worth it. Breast milk is free, provides health benefits and builds a special bond between mum and baby. And it’s great not having to worry about bringing bottles when you go out!”
Is it difficult to breastfeed in public? Neither mum has had problems. “In my personal experience, no one bats an eyelid,” noted Kathryn, “Either others don’t notice or I’m too busy and don’t see them looking.” Most cafes are child-friendly with room to bring a buggy. If tables are too close you don’t go, or use a baby carrier instead and leave the buggy at home. You are legally entitled to breastfeed in public. You can’t be asked to leave. Some places have Mothering rooms but these tend to be down by the toilet with little space and you’re staring at a blank wall. I prefer to sit with my friends and have my coffee. I’m just feeding my child, it’s that simple.”
Technology has proven to be a wonderful support. “If you have a problem with breastfeeding or any aspect of motherhood, there is help available,” agreed Mairead. “The internet is a great source of knowledge with sites like Friends of Breastfeeding Ireland, Le Leche League and Cuidui.”
Facebook forums also provide great support. Breastfeeding with Tongue Tie in Ireland and Breastfeeding Mammies in Cork are forums that Mairead and Kathryn use. Extended Breastfeeding in Ireland and parenting sites like Rollercoaster are also great sources of information. “On these Facebook pages it’s easy to chat or post a question,” explained Kathryn, “There’s always someone online who’ll respond – even at 2.00am!”
In addition, organisations like Le Leche League and Cuidiú host regular coffee mornings where mums can get support but also make friends. Although Mairead and Kathryn have worked together for 12 years, their friendship grew with their babies so close in age. At Mairead’s first Le Leche League meeting over three years ago, she met a mum with young children only 5 weeks and 6 weeks in age difference from her own 2 daughters. Both mums are now great friends and the kids get on well too!
And what about the Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge to raise awareness? Irish mothers and babies were placed first and second in its 2011 global Challenge, while 2013 saw another huge turnout.
“Our goal,” explained Mairead, “Is to have as many mums breastfeeding at one time as possible.” In Cork, the challenge will take place at 11.00 am in the Wilton Parish SMA Hall, (Doors open at 10.00) and at other locations across the country.
“You can register on line http://www.friendsofbreastfeeding.ie/wp/events/quintessence-breastfeeding-challenge or register on the day. Last year the Cork group was the biggest in Ireland, with 64 mums breastfeeding together, but this year we think we can do better!” concluded Mairead.
So Irish mums, are you up for the challenge or will Cork mums retain the Quintessence title?
(Read the full article in Wednesday’s October 1st Evening Echo WOW section)
Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland