- Number of lactation consultants has doubled since 2021
- Breastfeeding breaks during work expanded up to child’s 2nd birthday
- Breastfeeding rates increasing
Supports for mothers beginning breastfeeding and for those who wish to continue on their return to work and beyond are being highlighted ahead of HSE National Breastfeeding Week 2023, which begins on Sunday, 1st October.
This year’s theme is ‘Making our communities and workplaces more breastfeeding friendly’. It aims to highlight local supports for parents and the recent expansion in law of breastfeeding breaks during work hours up until to a child’s second birthday. Parents can get tips on continuing breastfeeding and going back to work and chat with a breastfeeding expert on the HSE’s mychild.ie website.
Recent initiatives to help support breastfeeding include:
- 35.5 new lactation and infant feeding posts recruited in the last 3 years. There are now 57 lactation and infant feeding staff members nationwide to provide specialist support in all maternity and public health nursing services. This represents a doubling of lactation consultant posts employed in the HSE since 2021.
- In July, the government extended the entitlement to breastfeeding breaks in the workplace from the previous period of six months up to two years.
The number of babies being breastfed is continuing to grow. New HSE figures for 2022 show that 62% of babies were breastfed when the public health nurse made their first visit after birth. The figure was 59% in 2021. In 2017, it was 55% and has been rising since then.
Hildegarde Naughton, Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, said: “Improving Ireland’s breastfeeding rates will help to improve long term population health. Breastfeeding supports your child’s health now and over the long term. It’s also important for mothers too, supporting their recovery after birth and reducing their risk of breast cancer and diabetes.
“We must continue our efforts to support parents who want to breastfeed their children, from early days to going back to work and beyond. We all have a role to play, in the health service, in the community and in the workplace in making this happen.”
Lynne Cunningham is one of the new HSE lactation consultants recruited as part of this initiative and is marking her first anniversary in post in Sligo University Hospital where she supports parents experiencing breastfeeding challenges.
Lynne outlined: “I encourage mums to attend breastfeeding classes and get advice for their own situation in the antenatal period to prepare them for what to expect in the early days and weeks. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing mums surprise themselves at how well they do, gaining confidence with every feed and enjoying breastfeeding their baby.
“Meanwhile, a year into the post I am aware of many mothers who have now returned to work and have seen first-hand the difference breastfeeding breaks in the workplace has made, making combining breastfeeding and returning to work more appealing and feasible, and breastfeeding breaks have helped some mothers breastfeed for longer than intended to.”
Laura Tighe, a teacher in Sligo, was given support by Lynn Cunningham to help her breastfeed her twins Neasa and Cullan now aged 9 months.
The Sligo mum had always planned to try breastfeeding her twins but was initially worried. Speaking about her journey, Laura said: “Having done some research, breastfeeding was always something I wanted to do. Being a first time mum, I looked then into what was available in Sligo and I attended antenatal classes, some of which were specific to twin mums.
“As a PE teacher with an interest in health and lifestyle, I understand the importance of good nutrition. I knew there were huge benefits to breastfeeding my babies.”
Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, said: “We know from our data that more mothers are breastfeeding every year. Parents can get support and advice on establishing breastfeeding from their midwife and public health nurse. They can also ask them questions about other aspects of caring for newborn babies, such as recognising what is normal in the early weeks and soothing a crying or unsettled baby, common concerns for parents highlighted in a paper published by The Lancet earlier this year. Hospital and community lactation consultants can offer support with specific breastfeeding queries and challenges.
“The number of breastfeeding groups is also growing in every county. There are over 180 groups running, and in-person and online options are available, all listed on mychild.ie.”
Support for parents is also available on the HSE’s mychild.ie website, including:
To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, follow for expert tips, videos and updates on the HSE mychild.ie Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #breastfeedingweek.
Last updated on: 26 / 09 / 2023