HSE National Breastfeeding Week 2018

New research shows how investment in breastfeeding benefits mothers, babies and wider society

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HSE National Breastfeeding Week 2018 - New research shows how investment in breastfeeding benefits mothers, babies and wider society

Photo includes Margaret Hynes, lactation consultant, University Maternity Hospital Limerick

A number of events are taking place at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) to mark National Breastfeeding Week, the theme of which is ‘Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference’. 

“National Breastfeeding Week provides a great opportunity to promote the importance of breastfeeding, to provide information on breastfeeding supports and to promote breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed babies and young children,” said Margaret Hynes, lactation consultant, University Maternity Hospital Limerick. “We are really excited that we have now reached a breastfeeding initiation rate of 60% at the hospital, which is a new high for us. We are seeing a lot more women breastfeeding and it really is something to celebrate.”

The week will end on Sunday, 7th October following seven days of activity across the country – coffee mornings, support group events, and even a visit by breastfeeding mums and their babies to Áras an Uactaráin – to promote the importance of breastfeeding.

Among the events taking place in UMHL are a meeting of the Cuidiu Support Group for new mothers from 11am to 1pm on Friday, October 6th. UMHL was delighted to endorse the launch last week by Limerick City and County Council of “We’re Breastfeeding Friendly” – a campaign supported by Healthy Ireland that aims to help improve the health and wellbeing of breastfeeding mothers, babies and their families through by encouraging businesses, organisations and communities to become ‘Breastfeeding Friendly."

The HSE would like to let mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families, know about the benefits of breastfeeding, how important it is for good health of baby and mother, and what supports that are available for breastfeeding mothers and their families. At the HSE’s dedicated website - Breastfeeding.ie - there is a range of supports available for breastfeeding mums and their families, including the free Ask our Expert service and live Web Chat provided by Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). According to Laura Mc Hugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, “Breastfeeding is a natural process, however mothers may require support, knowledge and education. A recently published study tells us that when support is offered to breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies, it increases the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding." 

“Breastfeeding.ie provides answers to all your questions, and support and information is available to help you and your baby. The breastfeeding videos at the site provide guidance on positioning and attaching baby; expressing milk; what to expect in the early days; and tips from other mothers. We also have a HSE Breastfeeding Facebook page, which provides a community support for mothers and there are 290 breastfeeding support groups around the country, details of which are on Breastfeeding.ie. Some of these groups are organised by Public Health Nurses (PHNs), while others are organised by Lactation Consultants in the hospitals or trained breastfeeding support volunteers all who are, or have been, breastfeeding mothers. They are a great source of information, support and friendship." 

The HSE also highlighted recently published research relating to the Social Return on Investment from PHN-facilitated breastfeeding groups in Ireland. The study, which was part funded by the Institute of Community Health Nursing (ICHN) was carried out by authors Sinead Hanafin, Kieran O’Dwyer, Mary Creedon and Catherine Clune Mulvaney. The paper shows that for very Euro spent on breastfeeding groups facilitated by public health nurses, there is a return of €15.85 which is considered as very substantial. Social Return On Investment is a type of cost-benefit analysis that allows the social, economic and environmental value of services provided to be measured in ways that are relevant to stakeholders. Essentially, it helps to reveal the economic value of social and environmental benefits and it balances this against the cost of the intervention provided.

According to Dr Sinead Hanafin, Visiting Research Fellow, at Trinity College Dublin, one of the co-authors of the report, “The findings from this study clearly highlight a number of benefits for everyone involved and shows a very positive impact on the health of mothers and infants from attending groups facilitated by public health nurses . The study also shows that attendance at a breastfeeding group can result in improvements in the mental health of new mothers and can also help mothers to breastfeed for a longer period of time.”

See Breastfeeding.ie or like us on Facebook/HSEBreastfeeding to find out all you need to know about breastfeeding supports in your area or online.