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Virtual breastfeeding group provides vital supports to families in a socially distanced way

Roisin Sullivan, HSE Public Health Nurse and lactation consultant, hosting an online breastfeeding group in Dun Laoghaire.

Lactation consultant Roisin Sullivan has been putting a virtual arm around breastfeeding mums and babies, providing vital support and advice despite the restrictions caused by COVID-19.


Roisin, a HSE public health nurse, hosts an online breastfeeding group in Dun Laoghaire. The virtual group began several weeks ago when Roisin returned to her post following redeployment to a COVID-related role. While it can’t fully replace the in-person gatherings and consultations, it has been an enormous help to parents in the area.


This year’s HSE National Breastfeeding Week, which is just drawing to a close, highlights the role of online supports for new parents.


The HSE’s ‘Ask Our Breastfeeding Expert’ online service recorded a 57% increase in demand over recent months as parents of babies born during COVID-19 restrictions sought online advice.


“With the help of Eimear Costello, I was given a license to hold a group session on line via Cisco Webex. I sent the link to all the public health nurses in the area to share with the new mums and the day and time is the same every week,” explained Roisin.


“I try to answer any questions that come up during the session. But if a mum prefers to do a one-on-one consultation with me, we can schedule an online session together. Then I have my doll here that I can use with my special knitted boob to demonstrate proper latch techniques with the mums and address any problems they are having. They have my number and can always get me if they have any difficulties.”


She said that mums are taking it on themselves to arrange gatherings and offer peer support to each other.


“I now encourage the mums to share the link with any other mums they know. They have also set up a WhatsApp group amongst themselves for extra support. Another mum has a Zoom meeting every week and I join it every fortnight to offer advice. This group have a Friday morning meet up in a park in Dun Laoghaire weather-permitting.”


She had hoped to do one or two meet ups in the park to mark National Breastfeeding Week but her plans were curtailed by the escalation of Dublin to Level 3 restrictions.

“We would always have a coffee morning with the parents to celebrate Breastfeeding Week and it was obviously disappointing that we couldn’t carry on that tradition this year. But it’s good to see that mums are still connecting with each other, even if it is through Zoom or WhatsApp. Peer support is just as vital on the breastfeeding journey,” said Roisin.