Breastfeeding Questions - Breastfeeding Questions and the Irish Leaving Certificate
I recently had my attention drawn to the marking scheme for the Biology papers in this year's Irish Leaving Certificiate exams. This year there was a question looking for positive reasons for a mother to breastfeed her child. The standard marking scheme DID NOT allow points for papers with "helps mother to regain figure" or similar answers. As both the paper and marking scheme are now in the public domain I think this should be challenged by an authoritative group on breastfeeding.
Having breastfeed two children both for 1 year in Co. Longford, Ireland, where there is little or no support and seen the literature posted about various clinics and hospital wards, I think that the weight loss aspect is considerably under-sold - particularly given the current cultural weight/obesity issues prevalent in the West. Any potential mother should be bombarded with information relating to figure regain as it tends to be a priority for a lot of women.
I live in a small village that has e-coli in our water scheme (a problem that is being rectified) but, of the 5 new mums I met, only one other was breastfeeding - and she was English (as am I). All the Irish mums were on bottles - despite the water issues! Is this a cultural thing? Certainly if the above attitude is prevalent at schools, then the right incentives/messages aren't being got across! These concerns, when raised as an issue to the marking board, were put down immediately by men who thought it was an excuse just to "talk about breasts" and the women present didn't say anything at all - Irish women too?
I don't know if the figure regain incentive is a scientifically proven thing but it certainly worked very quickly for me and if the listed celeb breast-feeders did it - it worked for them too. I remember reading an interview about 6 years ago in the Irish Times with Jasmine Guinness, model, talking about her weight loss as a direct result of breastfeeding after her first child - it is quotes like hers from all the celebs, alongside before and after pictures, that need to be displayed in every clinic where every potential mum can see them!
It's so important for children that I really feel any action that can help it happen should be taken!
I hope someone can take this up - or direct me to someone else who will!
Many thanks and kind regards.
Thanks so much for your email.
I'm not quite sure what I can do about this issue as I work alone on my website and am a full-time mum currently breastfeeding my 14 month old. But it is the ignorance and lack of information surrounding breastfeeding that inspired me to set up www.breastfeedingmums.com so that I could try to do something about it.
I agree entirely that the weight loss issue is undersold and should be made much more of. I know my weight simply vanished within a couple of weeks of giving birth and I was not dieting but rather I was ravenously hungry - though there appears to be an under-current of disbelief creeping into the media when presented with the fact that a new mum can lose weight quickly when breastfeeding.
As regards the cultural issue, I do believe a lot of Irish mums have no idea why they should breastfeed and that breastfeeding benefits both mothers and babies. Fortunately, my mum was very aware of the benefits and growing up (in N. Ireland) she encouraged my siblings and me to breastfeed when we grew up! But very few of my friends have entertained the idea of breastfeeding. And I do not recall breastfeeding ever being mentioned during any classes I attended at school.
In fact, when I was employed as a teacher, I raised the issue of breastfeeding to a group of 15 year olds during a lesson and the majority of them shrieked in disgust. And some even slid down under their desks so that all that remained were the tops of a few red faces! I couldn't believe their response, so there really is a lot of work needs to be done to reverse this attitude!
However, fortunately in my own hometown, there is a fabulous breastfeeding support group and a very supportive network of professionals helping to spread the message. So at least in some parts of Ireland the support is available.
But, like you I think it comes too late. Young children, even as young as primary school children, should be educated about breastfeeding before they see breasts become sexualised. My own children think it is completely normal and have even been seen breastfeeding their own toys! And I firmly believe it will come as second nature to them if they are fortunate enough to have children of their own.
I would love to see your idea implemented but unfortunately I do not have the contacts yet. Perhaps if you post your letter to local and national Irish newspapers and health boards/ ministers it will attract some attention. La Leche League may be able to take up the issue as they are a massive organisation and must have many contacts. I also suggest you post it on a number of Irish breastfeeding forums and even general baby forums as it will surely attract some attention from other mums. There must be somebody out there who can help to do something about it.
If you like I will post your question on my Breastfeeding Questions and Answers page and forward any replies I get on to you.
Again, thank you for contacting me and I am sorry I cannot be of more help! I wish you the best of luck!
Please let me know how you get on.
Thanks for replying. Would you believe (I'm sure you probably would) that of all the email addresses I sent my mail to yours was the only one that actually got there? All the rest to La Leche contacts and similar addresses have either bounced back or been ignored!
Anyway, I'll keep plodding on. Perhaps you could post it on your QA page and see what happens.
It's so frustrating; I can find phone numbers but emailing is so much more convenient as you can do it anytime - I'm a full-time mum too. I wonder if publicly the whole breastfeeding image remains in the domain of tree-hugging, sandal wearing, vegetarians - nothing against that type of person as I fit into at least one of the categories; I find wellies more convenient and as I live next to a forest, I wouldn't get much done if I went tree-hugging each morning :-)
Thanks again for your response.
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