Ireland's "obsessed with the bottle" in every sense, say first-time mothers

Ireland's "obsessed with the bottle" in every sense, say first-time mothers

IRELAND lags far behind Britain when it comes to accepting breastfeeding in public, according to first-time Irish mammies Clodagh McGuirk and Nina Cáit Gilbert.

The pair, who founded the Irish Mammies London network this year, claim their home country has yet to become breastfeeding-friendly and has an “obsession with the bottle, in every sense”.

“There is absolutely no issue breastfeeding in public in London,” McGuirk told The Irish Post.

“Its exceptionally good here in fact – you are made very welcome to breastfeed everywhere you go and some places even having signs to assure you that you can do it there,” the 33-year-old, who is originally from Clonakilty in West Cork, explains.

“But in Ireland it’s not so easily accepted at all,” she adds.


“I suppose they don’t see it there every day, but when I’ve been home with my 10-month-old I’ve definitely received a few side-glances when I’m breastfeeding.”

For friend and Irish Mammies co-founder Gilbert, who also hails from Clonakilty, the issue stems back to the general avoidance of breastfeeding by new mums.

“We are both huge advocates of breastfeeding,” the graphic designer, who is also 33, admits, "but at home a huge percentage of women don’t even attempt it – even today.

"Ireland has an obsession with the bottle in every sense,” she adds, “alcohol and milk. And it stretches quite far back. My own mother said back when she gave birth the nurses encouraged you to rest when you had the baby. So they took the baby away and gave it a bottle, so you didn’t have much choice at that stage.”

Despite the odd looks they receive, both women continue to breastfeed their children in public when back home visiting friends and relatives in Ireland – but claim it regularly leaves people not knowing where to look.

“I don’t know who is more uncomfortable about it, the Irish men or Irish women,” Gilbert explains.

“I know someone back home whose brother-in-law will leave the room when she starts breastfeeding - but I can’t understand why it’s embarrassing. It’s not exposing yourself at all, at least not once you have the hang of it.”


While Ireland has yet to catch up in the acceptance of breastfeeding, the feeding debate was seen to be take a negative turn towards bottle-feeding mothers in Britain this week.

The recent trend of celebrities posting breastfeeding selfies or ‘Brelfies’ on social media has ignited a backlash – with the mothers responsible now accused of putting too much pressure on their bottle-feeding counterparts.

Siobhan Freegard, the Irish founder of the Netmums parenting website, who recently launched the Channel Mum vlogging site, claims negativity in Britain is turning towards those who opt for the bottle.

"Putting new mums under 'bressure' benefits no one and swapping abusing mums who breastfeed in public for mums who bottle-feed isn't progress,” she said.

"Most mothers desperately want to breastfeed - but not all can. What should be a personal choice is being turned into a political issue with mums feeling judged at every turn,” she added.

"Those mums who do choose to bottle-feed - for whatever reason - must not be made to feel second class citizens."

A survey by the Channel Mum site found 39 per cent of bottle-feeding mothers in Britain have been the target of negative comments and looks by strangers, the entrepreneur revealed this week.