The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, TD has today announced additional funding to the HSE of €1.58m euros to fund 24 additional Lactation Consultants thereby providing support to every maternity unit in the country.
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.
Announcing this extra funding, Minister Donnelly said: “This year, Healthy Ireland and Sláintecare are making a significant investment towards implementing the National Breastfeeding Action Plan. 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.
“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.
In New Zealand the ratio of Lactation Consultants to births are 0.27/1,000 community births and 0.77/1,000 hospital births. This was equivalent to a total of 64 Lactation Consultants based on the number of Irish births. To date the HSE already has 30.5 in place and 9.5 in recruitment meaning that for optimum levels, an additional 24 Lactation Consultants are needed. This commitment today of funding for these 24 new posts means that the whole country is covered in accordance with the National Breastfeeding Action Plan targets.
Minister Donnelly added: “Today’s announcement also supports the delivery of the National Maternity Strategy,“Creating a Better Future Together 2016 -2026” which represents a significant development in the delivery maternity care, setting out high quality, integrated, team-based services that are safe, woman centred and that increase the choice of experiences to women across the country.
“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.”