HSE National Breastfeeding Week: Expert Help for Every Step of the Way 1 – 7 October 2022

  • Number of babies breastfed is increasing in Ireland
  • 20 new infant feeding and lactation posts recruited in the last two years and 44 available nationwide to support parents
  • Ask the Expert: live chat and e-mail breastfeeding support from an expert available on mychild.ie
  • 110 in-person breastfeeding support groups resumed post-COVID

Tomorrow, (Saturday, 1st October 2022) HSE National Breastfeeding Week begins, encouraging parents to take up free expert help and celebrating rising breastfeeding rates in Ireland. According to new HSE figures, there was a 5% point increase in the number of babies breastfed at the first Public Health Nurse visit between 2019 and 2021, a rise to 59%. The theme of this year’s HSE National Breastfeeding Week is Expert Help for Every Step of the Way.

The HSE has recruited 20 additional infant feeding and lactation posts within nursing and midwifery services to support breastfeeding parents. Midwives are the first to assist with breastfeeding and should mothers need more specialist support, all 19 maternity hospitals now have a specialist lactation support service available. More infant feeding/lactation posts are being recruited to ensure nationwide availability within primary care services. 110 breastfeeding groups have now resumed meeting in person providing important peer-to-peer support for parents on their breastfeeding journey.

Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, celebrates the new posts and the importance of these growing supports:

“While breastfeeding rates are increasing around the country, we want to continue to build on this progress by supporting every parent who may need help on their breastfeeding journey. I welcome our colleagues taking up the new infant feeding and lactation roles around the country, and although not everyone will need their services, their support will make a big difference for parents who do.

“As well as the new posts, we have breastfeeding preparation and antenatal classes, our midwives and public health nurses and a growing number of in-person groups resuming post pandemic. There are also a range of online resources such as virtual breastfeeding groups and mychild.ie, which has practical breastfeeding advice and the ‘Ask Our Expert’ live chat and e-mail breastfeeding support service, available 7 days a week.

“Approximately 6 in every 10 babies are breastfed in the first week of life, and we have developed a holistic range of supports to help mothers and babies learning this new skill.”

Anne O’Malley, HSE Public Health Nurse, Community Healthcare Dublin North City and County added: “Every breastfeed makes a difference because any amount of breast milk is beneficial for mother and baby. If a mother can breastfeed for a short amount of time it will be helpful, and the longer you breastfeed the greater protection for mother and baby. We want every mother to know about all the free supports available to help her to breastfeed for longer if she wishes.”

Dundalk mother Sarah Heaphey (30s) was in shock when she went into pre-term labour with her little girl. Sarah focused on expressing her breastmilk for baby Annie to help in the best way she could, while Annie was cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU): “I attended an antenatal class in the hospital in January at around 33 weeks during which I learned about breastfeeding and thank God I did as 5 days later Annie arrived, almost 7 weeks pre-term. This was a major shock as she wasn’t due until March. Annie had some complications and in the chaos of it all a nurse said to me that the best thing I could do for her was to concentrate on getting my milk for her. It was overwhelming at the beginning but the midwives were so supportive, they sourced me a pump in no time and I was expressing almost straight away. Annie is thriving now at 8 months and we recently received amazing news after her tough first few months of life. I’m delighted I breastfed for as long as I did, and I am certain it benefited her no end. It gave me something to focus on while Annie was in hospital and it was a major way for me to help her.”

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, underlines the importance of the breastfeeding supports and urges breastfeeding mothers to seek help if needed: Expert Help for Every Step of the Way is the theme of this year’s National Breastfeeding Week. An assurance to parents that there are professional and peer supports available when needed at any stage of their breastfeeding journey. The continued investment in this area will help give our children the best start in life by breastfeeding and I would encourage more parents to seek out these supports, either online at mychild.ie through their public health nurse in the community, or in hospital.”

This week, the HSE is sending out information packs to maternity hospitals and primary care centres across the country promoting mychild.ie and the message that expert help is available for parents every step of the way.

National Breastfeeding Week is a HSE-led event, marked each year from 1st to 7th of October. For more information and practical breastfeeding advice, visit mychild.ie

To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, see the HSE mychild.ie Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #nationalbreastfeedingweek

Last updated on: 30 / 09 / 2022