Additional funding has been announced to the HSE of €1.58m euros to fund 24 additional Lactation Consultants thereby providing support to every maternity unit in the country according to Senator Fiona O’Loughlin.
A Lactation Consultant is a healthcare professional with specialist breastfeeding expertise who can assess and treat both common and serious nursing problems thereby increasing the mothers likelihood to initiate breastfeeding successfully and to continue to breastfeed.
“I am thrilled with this news,” said Senator O’Loughlin who called on the HSE to provide urgent supports to help breastfeeding mums last February.
“I have been calling for a national campaign to inform and promote breastfeeding in Irish society in for some time now as there is glaring need for more supports both in the hospital at birth and follow-up with lactation service at home.”
According to the announcement Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare are making a significant investment towards implementing the National Breastfeeding Action Plan to improve breastfeeding rates, improve child and maternal health and tackle Irelands culture of bottle feeding.
“We all know how important it is that our children get the best possible start in life and this is something all Government partners have prioritised in the Programme for Government,” she said. “Ireland has a culture of bottle feeding and in order to improve child and maternal health, as well as reducing childhood obesity we need to improve our breastfeeding rates. This funding will provide for Lactation Consultants across hospital and community settings to ensure timely skilled assistance for mothers who wish to breastfeed. It will also support enhanced training, skills and knowledge to frontline staff.”
As part of Sláintecare’s Healthy Living pillar, “A Healthy Weight for Ireland: Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016-2025” committed to implement Ten Steps. These steps engage and co-ordinate multi-sectoral action to help reduce obesity and commit to investment in additional resources in acute and primary care settings together with enhanced training, provision of supports to mothers and social marketing.
To provide the evidence base for best practise recommendations for breastfeeding in Ireland, the Department of Health commissioned the Health Research Board to prepare an evidence brief. The evidence brief ‘A review of practices that increase breastfeeding: the organization and implementation of systematic practices to facilitate and encourage breastfeeding in three countries’ was published in 2017. Of the three countries reviewed, the New Zealand model was chosen for the HSE National Breastfeeding Action Plan estimates for Lactation Consultants.
Approximately 65,000 children are born every year in Ireland, yet there are only 30 full-time equivalent lactation consultants in the public health system; no dedicated lactation consultant in 5 maternity hospitals-Sligo, Letterkenny, Mayo, Wexford and Waterford; and 16 counties where there are no dedicated lactation consultants working in Community settings.
“Budget 2021 provided €12m for maternity and gynaecology service developments and specifically expanded breastfeeding supports through funding 6.5 Lactation Consultants. In addition, to build on the work of the Women’s Health Taskforce, a €5m Women’s Health Fund has been provided to improve women’s health outcomes and experiences of healthcare. The Programme for Government prioritises women’s health and we are committed to delivering on this,” she concluded