Call for overhaul of breastfeeding support in hospitals

The latest HSE report on breastfeeding found an initiation rate of 63.8% in hospitals and said this is among the lowest in the world
Call for overhaul of breastfeeding support in hospitals

One-in-three women responding to a Bainne Beatha survey said they were offered formula, despite wanting to breastfeed. Picture: istock

The Oireachtas Health Committee will hear calls for urgent reform of supports for breastfeeding tomorrow. 

The latest HSE report on breastfeeding found an initiation rate of 63.8% in hospitals and said this is among the lowest in the world.

Campaign group Bainne Beatha, which means Milk of Life, was formed by Deborah Byrne, Lucia Prihodova and Megan Etherton.

They will present data showing the equivalent of 27.9 lactation consultants work in the country's 19 maternity hospitals. They will call for 110 based on international staffing benchmarks and increased midwifery recruitment. 

Ms Byrne said midwives are also trained as lactation consultants but expecting them to do it all seems unrealistic with current staffing levels.

She said: “Anecdotally, stories suggest that midwives are excellent supports but they are just too busy.” 

A questionnaire they did early last year revealed support varies from hospital to hospital.

One of our findings we found the most shocking was that one in three mothers were offered formula despite saying they wished to breastfeed. 

We are not anti-formula by any means, but it seems to be seen as a quick fix to breast-feeding challenges,” Ms Byrne said.

Bainne Beatha will also call for an audit of the National Infant Feeding Policy for Maternity & Neonatal Services, and an update on the Breastfeeding Action Plan 2016 – 2021.

Visiting restrictions

Meanwhile, concern continues around Covid-19 visiting restrictions at maternity hospitals for partners of pregnant women.

On Saturday, a petition signed by 60,000 people was published in the Irish Examiner.  It called for a minimum standard of access, and better communication around the need for restrictions.

Two sets of protests are planned for this week at maternity hospitals nationally.

Advocacy group AIMS Ireland, who held a virtual protest last week, will protest at 12 hospitals in the coming days. A maximum of seven people were registered for each.

Chairperson Krysia Lynch said: “We had an unprecedented response to the virtual protest, and about 40% of the emails were from partners.” 

A new informal group called Irish Birth Movement, led by three midwives, will hold their first protest at Portlaoise Hospital tomorrow. 

Brenda O’Toole said: “We cannot ignore the impact this is having on women, there is a lack of uniformity around this. It’s not just your partner who is affected, it’s about women’s mental health.” 

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