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More breastfeeding needed to tackle obesity in children and adults

Scientific report says Ireland has lowest breast feeding rates in Europe.

Image: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images

HEALTH PROBLEMS FACED by children and adults may be partly due to poor nutrition during their infant years or when they were in the womb, according to a scientific report carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Scientific Recommendations for a National Infant Feeding Policy in Ireland found that the type and amount of food eaten by pregnant mothers and babies is indicative of conditions acquired in later life such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It is also one of the main indicators of childhood obesity.

“During the first year of life, babies triple their birth weight and double their surface area making this a period of very rapid growth which is never repeated during the lifecycle” said Ita Saul, Chair of the FSAI Expert Working Group which produced the report.

Breastfeeding is the agreed gold-standard in infant feeding, she added and would help counter these problems. However, Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.

“More work needs to be done to increase the numbers of babies being breastfed in Ireland today and to improve weaning practices in terms of when solid food is first introduced and what types of foods are used.”

The spiraling prevalence of childhood obesity has its origins in poor infant feeding practices, says the report, with children who are larger when they are in the womb at greater risk of developing childhood obesity.

71 per cent of babies are being weaned from milk onto solid foods too early, with foods that should never be part of an infant’s diet such as crisps and soft drinks often given to babies as young as six months old.

“Infants are not ‘small adults’ and good feeding practice is quite a complex process” said Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist Public Health Nutrition at the FSAI.

National Breastfeeding Week: Irish breastfeeding rates below European neighbours’>

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