19th October 2021
HSE Media Statement
CHO Area 1 (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo)
Breastfeeding Buddies offering support in Sligo, Leitrim and the surrounding areas
The COVID-19 pandemic brought global change to our everyday lives. One group who were significantly affected were breastfeeding families. Breastfeeding works best when women receive high quality practical and emotional support from professionals and peers including in the community. Many of the usual breastfeeding supports ceased or moved online during the pandemic. The lockdowns brought to the fore the isolation of new mothers, and as a result the HSE and community volunteers came together to trial a brand new initiative in Sligo, Leitrim and surrounding areas entitled ‘Breastfeeding Buddies’.
A Breastfeeding Buddy is a mum who has breastfed, usually for at least six months, and has kindly volunteered to offer social and emotional support to other breastfeeding mums or to women who are currently pregnant and planning to breastfeed.
The Breastfeeding Buddy has some breastfeeding training but she is not a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation expert, but she is able to recognise when breastfeeding is proceeding normally. She provides emotional support, encouragement and motivation to new breastfeeding mums and she can also signpost new mums to sources of help in their area should they need it.
Contact is initiated by the breastfeeding mother and is via text, phone call or video call. It is best to initiate contact antenatally as the Breastfeeding Buddy and the new mum will already have formed a friendship before the baby arrives.
Heather Rose, one of the Breastfeeding Buddies said “As a relative newcomer to the area, I wish that a programme like Breastfeeding Buddies had been in place when I first arrived, and felt like the only person still breastfeeding an older baby. After some early struggles, I was happy to be able to continue breastfeeding my eldest until he self-weaned at over 2 and a half years old, and now with a new baby just a few weeks old, I was prepared with support in place to give myself the best chance of successfully breastfeeding again. I'm thrilled to be able to volunteer as a Breastfeeding Buddy and can't wait to connect with new mums and give them the moral and emotional support they need, especially in those early days and sleepless nights."
Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are the lowest in Europe and among the lowest in the world, with 63% ‘any’ breastfeeding (exclusive and nonexclusive) on discharge from hospital (IMIS National Report 2019). In contrast, countries such as Norway, Sweden and Australia have 90 per cent breastfeeding rates, 81 per cent in the United Kingdom and 79 per cent in the United States (NHS, 2011; PHAA, 2010, CDC, 2014).
The value of breastfeeding to a child’s lifelong nutrition, health and wellbeing has been scientifically proven by the World Health Organisation and Unicef. According to the World Health Organisation, “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses. Breastmilk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life. Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers”.
Heather Rose with her baby daughter Orla (photo credit Sophia T Photography)
There are 14 volunteer Breastfeeding Buddies spread across counties Sligo, Leitrim and North Roscommon who are waiting to offer new mums support and encouragement.
To find your nearest buddy
Google: Breastfeeding Buddies in counties Sligo Leitrim and surrounding areas
Click on the link: saolta.ie
Media queries to:
Phone: 087 4138327
Last updated on: 19 / 10 / 2021