Margaret O'Leary and Margaret Hynes with Pat Reddan, Clayton Hotel; Áine Fitzgerald, Limerick Leader; and Dave O'Hora, Southern - Picture: Adrian Butler
ON World Breastfeeding Week two lactation consultants have been honoured with the Limerick Person of the Month award for going above and beyond the call of duty to assist mothers in nursing their newborns.
Margaret O’Leary Ryan and Margaret Hynes, known affectionately as The Two Margarets, have “put thousands upon thousands” of babies through their hands since they began working at the Maternity - now called the University Maternity Hospital Limerick - in the 1980s.
“We are delighted to get this award and excited because this is World Breastfeeding Week as well,” comments Margaret Hynes, on being presented with the award at the Clayton Hotel this Tuesday.
Both women are known across the Mid-West for helping new parents and babies adapt to the breastfeeding process, often volunteering their services free of charge outside of working hours.
“There are benefits for everybody - the baby, the mother, the partner and for the environment,” explains Margaret Hynes.
“The first thing is the mother is giving the baby the same sort of food it has been getting for nine months. The gut develops antibodies against all the bugs the mother has which means it is able to fight infections. And the baby develops microbiomes when receiving mother's breastmilk.”
Breastfeeding, Margaret says, also has “huge benefits” for the mother “because it gives her some degree of protection against premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer.
“It is also very convenient for the mother. I say it is like the best fast food you can get - it is ready at the right temperature all of the time,” says Margaret Hynes who breastfed her own three children.
At present, there is a 60% initiation rate for breastfeeding at the University Maternity Hospital. “We are very lucky in the Maternity - we have very positive support from the midwifery management, the obstetric and paediatric management,” said Margaret Hynes who is originally from Ennis and now living in Meanus. Margaret is married to Tom and they have three children, Mary-Jade, Avelina and Sean.
Margaret O’Leary, meanwhile, lives in Raheen has been based at the Ennis Road hospital since the early 1980s. She has one daughter, Aine.
“It is a very privileged position because you are working with new babies and new mothers. It’s a lovely time in their lives,”
Both Margarets receive lots of feedback from mothers .
“We get written notes back which mean a lot because mothers tell us what helps them,” smiles Margaret O’Leary.
“We also run a feeding clinic, which is a drop in clinic, on a Tuesday. We will be going straight up there after this for the whole afternoon.”
Since 2001, both women have been working as clinical midwife specialists in breastfeeding and lactation.
“Margaret and I would help anybody - that’s just the way we are - neighbours friends. Some people work to be paid as private lactation consultants. We just do it because it is just like volunteering. At any time of the day and night we could be talking about a breastfeeding situation.” on the phone.”