BT Young Scientists “Highly commended”

Congratulations to Aisling Quinn, Breege Mc Govern and Ciara McGoldrick and their mentor Mr. Geoghegan in the BT Young Scientist Competition for being ‘Highly Commended’ in their category. This means they were in top 6 of the 108 entries in their category. Aisling, Breege and Ciara were also interviewed live on Shannonside on Monday 11th and spoke very well – it certainly provides them with a variety of experiences.

Aisling Quinn, one of our young scientists has put together this summary to give us a flavour of what their project involved……

This year Ciara McGoldrick, Breege Mc Govern and myself, Aisling Quinn competed in BT Young Scientist in the RDS. The idea for our project began when my cousin made a remark about how she was hesitant to breastfeed her child as it was recommended not to consume alcohol whilst pregnant and she had given up alcohol for the entirety of the pregnancy. Upon discussing this with Ciara and Breege, Breege remarked that she had seen an article in the Irish Independent which stated that Ireland has the world’s lowest rate for breastfeeding.

We then created a hypothesis that women in Ireland don’t breastfeed due to the prospect of having to abstain from alcohol. We decided to compile a survey to hand out to mothers who had a child in the past five years. We ran the survey by Michelle Glacken, the head of nursing in St. Angela’s and my aunt who studied and now teaches phycology to ensure that the survey would not have a bias or be too intrusive. We did this as wanted to get as many responses as possible to obtain a sufficient result and we were aware of the sensitive nature of the topic. We circulated out 400 surveys in local primary and secondary schools, crèches and through public health nurses. We received a total of 147 surveys back and recorded all the result on google docs. We then created graphs and tables to display our results on excel, along with using a website called statwig to statistically analyse our data.

We found that 63% of the women we surveyed breastfeed their child, which is very similar to the national average of 56%. Of all the women who didn’t breastfeed their children 44% said that the prospect of abstaining from alcohol did affect their decision to not breastfeed. We found that 28% of women thought there was no difference between the health benefits of breastmilk or formula milk. Of these women 85% of them didn’t breastfeed their child. This would suggest that if more women were informed about the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother, then more women would breastfeed in Ireland. We also found that of all the women who started consuming alcohol after they turned 21, 85% of them breastfed their child compared to only 55.3% who breastfed their child when they started consuming alcohol under 18. We found and interesting statistic that if the father consumes alcohol, the women are more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier. When the father consumed alcohol 44.3% of the women stopped breastfeeding in the first three months compared to when the father didn’t consume alcohol only 6.7% of the women stopped breastfeeding in the first 3 months. Over 90% of women surveyed were aware of the recommendation not to consume any alcohol while breastfeeding but not all of them breastfed their child.

In our background research we found many studies that say alcohol in moderation is fine while breastfeeding. We can assume that if alcohol in moderation is in fact expectable and more people knew this then more women would breastfeed. More research should be done on this topic to acquire a concrete recommendation and following this the women and teenagers in Ireland should be educated about breastfeeding.

Overall BT Young scientist was an excellent experience and to receive a status of highly commended made the whole experience more exciting. We all greatly enjoyed completing this project and were all genuinely interested in the topic and we look forward to further research being completed on this topic.

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