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The Irish Maternity Indicator System report for 2019 shows that almost 64 percent of woman initiate breastfeeding at their baby’s first feed.

This is compared with rates of 81 per cent in the UK, 79 per cent in the US and 90 per cent in Australia.

According to the study Jjust over 37 percent of mothers are breastfeeding when they leave hospital with their newborn.

According to the 2019 report, one maternity unit in the country recorded a rate of under 20 percent.

Kay Browne from La Leche League breastfeeding support group says there is a lack of lactation consultants here.

The report also shows that the total number of births in Ireland has fallen by almost 12 per cent since 2014 and almost 20 per cent since 2008.

While the rate of Caesarean sections increased again, to 34.3 per cent of all births.

According to a World Health Organisation target, half of all newborns should be exclusively breastfed after six months. According to the most recent figures, 13 per cent of Irish babies are breastfed after six months, compared with a European average of 25 per cent and a global average of 38 per cent.

A separate report by the Department of Social Protection found 1,728 fewer births were recorded in Ireland in 2019 than in 2018.

According to that report there was a 3 per cent decrease in the number of births registered in Ireland last year. A total of 60,173 births were registered last year, which the department says continues a steady decrease in recent years.

There were 197 stillbirths in 2019. This is down 26 on the previous year.