Speaking in the Dáil today, Jennifer Whitmore TD, the Social Democrats spokesperson for Children, called on the Government to commit to funding and implementing the National Breastfeeding Action Plan.

Deputy Whitmore said:

“Today marks the start of National Breastfeeding Week so I felt it was a good time to remind the Government of Ireland’s poor breastfeeding record.

“The reality is that Ireland lags way behind other countries when it comes to breastfeeding. HSE figures from 2016 show that exclusive breastfeeding rates here on discharge from hospitals are 46.3 percent.

“However, according to 2013 WHO World Health Statistics, only 15 percent of children in Ireland are exclusively breastfed for the first six months – this compares with the global average of 38 percent and a European average of 25 percent.

“I welcome today’s acknowledgment in the Dáil by the Green Party Leader, Minister Eamon Ryan TD, that these figures are not acceptable and need to be improved on.

“However, his positive comments must be matched by a Government commitment to fund and implement the National Breastfeeding Action Plan.

“This plan contains policies at hospital and community level to support women who want to breastfeed their child; investment in breastfeeding training and skills development for healthcare staff; additional lactation specialist posts; and a partnership that works to promote a culture that accepts and supports breastfeeding.

“Additional funding should also be provided for voluntary organisations such as La Leche League, Cuidiú and Friends of Breastfeeding.

“Worryingly, a study published today by BabyDoc found that more than a third of mothers who had a baby in the last 12 months and decided not to breastfeed – or had to stop within the first two weeks – felt judged by others. This highlights the work that needs to be done to normalise breastfeeding and further educate the public about its benefits.

“However, there are encouraging signs that the Covid-19 lockdown may have helped to increase our breastfeeding rates, with 26 percent of mothers who gave birth during the pandemic now hitting the five to eight-month breastfeeding milestone. The Government should build on this progress by addressing funding shortfalls and deplorable breastfeeding rates in the upcoming Budget.”

October 1, 2020

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