It's National Breastfeeding Week - October 1-7


Barry Andrews, TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, together with a host of breastfeeding mums and babies, launched this year's National Breastfeeding Week with a photocall at the HSE Health Centre in Loughlinstown, County Dublin. The aim of this year's National Breastfeeding Week is to raise awareness of the various support services available for mothers who are breastfeeding or considering doing so.

To mark National Breastfeeding Week, the Health Service Executive have a range of support materials available, including a 'Feeding Your Baby' leaflet, a 'Families Supporting Breastfeeding' leaflet, a breastfeeding information calendar and the Breastfeeding Support Network Card - a wallet-friendly card providing information on where and how help and support can be accessed by breastfeeding mothers. All materials can be obtained in maternity hospitals, health centres, GP surgeries, pharmacies and HSE health promotion departments. These resources can also be accessed through the HSE breastfeeding site, or the HSE Infoline on 1850 24 1850.

Ireland has a relatively low rate of breastfeeding with around 50% of women breastfeeding on leaving hospital following the birth of their child, which compares poorly to other European countries - UK: 78%, Norway: 99%, Denmark: 98%, Italy: 91%, Spain: 84% and France: 69%. Last year however saw the launch of a campaign by the HSE's Breastfeeding Strategy Implementation Committee (BSIC) to increase breastfeeding rates by 2 per cent a year. The five-year Strategic Action Plan for Breastfeeding includes better hospital and community breastfeeding services for mothers.

Research carried out by the HSE last year found that support and practical information were vital for mothers who wished to breastfeed. The research showed that emotional support from a partner, being shown how to breastfeed in hospital and being provided with information on where to seek help are regarded as the three most important forms of support for mothers who are newly breastfeeding their babies.

National Breastfeeding Week is being strongly supported by all health professional groups, voluntary breastfeeding groups such as La Leche League of Ireland and Cuidiú-Irish Childbirth Trust. HSE Public Health Nurses, La Leche League of Ireland and Cuidiu-Irish Childbirth Trust volunteers provide expert breastfeeding support on a one-to-one basis, over the phone, and by bringing groups of breastfeeding mothers together on a regular basis. Midwives, GPs, practice nurses, paediatricians, lactation consultants also play a very important supportive role.

Minister Andrews, TD, said "Breastfeeding is an effective way for mothers to give their babies the best possible start in life. I hope that the resources, such as the Breastfeeding Support Network Card, will make it easier for expectant and new mothers and their families to access the support services".

Catherine Murphy, Assistant National Director, Population Health, Health Service Executive and Chair of the NBSI committee said "Research has shown that support and information are particularly important in the early days of breastfeeding. We encourage women who are considering breastfeeding to attend a breastfeeding support group and seek information during their pregnancy. This will ensure they are more confident and well prepared. Resources such as the HSE booklets and website, as well as the public health and voluntary breastfeeding support services around the country can be invaluable for breastfeeding mothers and we encourage women to seek support if and when they require it."

Maureen Fallon, National Breastfeeding Coordinator said "There are lots of reasons why breastfeeding makes sense for both mother and baby. It provides perfect food for babies; it is also the healthy option with numerous health advantages for both mum and baby; it's convenient, free and environmentally friendly. Breastfeeding ensures optimal growth, development and health, not just while breastfeeding continues but throughout life."

National Breastfeeding Week will see a series of events taking place around the country that will inform and educate people as to the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for mother and baby as well as providing guidance on any problems that may be encountered.

The week will also see the launch of an entertaining new play on breastfeeding, addressing the difficulties and issues encountered by breastfeeding mothers. The play, 'Milk It!', which is the brain child of the multi-disciplinary South Dublin/Wicklow Breastfeeding Committee, is aimed at changing attitudes to breastfeeding amongst younger women and builds on the experiences of real life mothers. The play will be performed at a number of locations in South Dublin and it is hoped that it will eventually be used as an education resource for young people.

Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mother and baby. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from ailments such as gastroenteritis, respiratory, urinary tract and ear infections, asthma, eczema, obesity and childhood diabetes. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding, with lower risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis later in life. They also get their figures back faster and easier.

Last updated on: 02 / 10 / 2008