Press Release: Thursday 30th September 2021
The HSE and mothers celebrate return of in-person breastfeeding support groups this National Breastfeeding Week
New research showing significant supply of COVID-19 antibodies passed to babies through mothers’ breastmilk highlighted Doubling of lactation consultants welcomed
Tomorrow, (Friday, 1st October 2021) the HSE marks the start of National Breastfeeding Week with the return of in-person breastfeeding groups after 18 months.
Reflecting on the massive adaptation of breastfeeding support services since the onset of the pandemic, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, Laura McHugh said she’s delighted that mums and babies can once again attend these groups in person.
“Virtual meetings have become a common feature in our world and while they proved invaluable at a time when it was not possible to gather, we are so pleased that the strong communities forged online can now migrate into a real-world setting.
“A lot was learned through online service delivery and we’re looking forward to further developing a hybrid model of in-person and online services to make breastfeeding supports as accessible as possible.
“Although in-person groups and home visits are very beneficial, online resources such as virtual breastfeeding groups and the HSE ‘Ask Our Expert’ live chat and e-mail service, available 7 days a week, are invaluable tools in a holistic approach to supporting breastfeeding mothers,” Laura said.
Teresa Cronin, Assistant Director of Public Health Nursing, HSE Community Healthcare East added: “While many public health nurses engaged in person with new mothers at least once throughout the pandemic, all group support for breastfeeding mothers moved from face-to-face to virtual. We are now delighted to facilitate the re-introduction of in-person public health nurse-led breastfeeding support groups across the country.”
The return coincides with news of emerging evidence that COVID-19 antibodies are secreted into the breast milk of vaccinated mothers, potentially offering protection to babies.
Commenting on the findings of recent systematic reviews and meta-analysis, Laura McHugh said it really underscores both the advantages of breastfeeding and getting vaccinated.
“This new research indicates that along with the many benefits already associated with breastfeeding, breast milk could now also protect babies from COVID-19 where breastfeeding mothers were recently vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 infection.”
Laura McHugh also highlighted a recent major development in breastfeeding support services, as the Minster for Health announced the allocation of €1.58m for 24 additional lactation consultant posts earlier this year: “Lactation consultants have specialist breastfeeding expertise and can assist with breastfeeding challenges, facilitating mothers to continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish. With supports soon to be available in every public health nursing service, as well as additional resources being deployed to larger maternity hospitals, it’s very welcome news indeed.”
Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, said: “’Feeding the future: Supporting breastfeeding through a pandemic and beyond’ is the theme of this year’s National Breastfeeding Week. Giving our children the best start in life by breastfeeding is our ultimate aim and we now know it may bring even more benefits with COVID-19 antibodies being found in the breast milk of vaccinated mothers.
“It's fantastic to see the resumption of in-person support groups which are so important to new mothers. Our recent investment in lactation consultants across all hospital and community settings will help ensure timely, skilled assistance for mothers who wish to breastfeed and I encourage more new mothers to join these groups and help improve their child's health now and into the future.”
National Breastfeeding Week is a HSE-led event, marked each year from October 1st to 7th. For more information and helpful breastfeeding tips and tricks, 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 / 2021