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Early years

01st Oct 2019

National Breastfeeding Week 2019: “This week is about celebrating Irish mums”

Trine Jensen-Burke

National Breastfeeding Week

‘Every Breastfeed makes a difference.’

Today marks the start of National Breastfeeding Week here in Ireland, a week-long event which aims to support, inform, highlight and last, but not least celebrate breastfeeding – and Irish mums and the amazing job they are doing.

Ireland’s breastfeeding rates are improving, and according to the Department of Health, there has been a 10 percent increase on babies that are being breastfed on leaving hospital in the last 10 years.

“Every breastfeed makes a difference,” says Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, who chatted to ahead of National Breastfeeding Week.

“And there is no denying that Irish mums are doing an amazing job, slowly but surely reversing the trend of previous generations and opting to give their babies the absolute best start in life by breastfeeding them.”

In fact, impressivly, the latest data shows that these days, as many as 60 percent of babies in Ireland are breastfed on leaving hospital.

National Breastfeeding Week

“The stats are impressive – especially when you take into account that to new mums, breastfeeding is a brand new skill that takes time and practice to master,” says McHugh.

“To many of today’s mums, they haven’t got mothers or other family members who breastfed and are available to ask for advice or help, and so it is so amazing to see how they are paving the way, and how eager they are to breastfeed, and how aware they are that this really is the best start for their babies – and how it also has some amazing benefits for their own health too. as the go-to resource

This year, McHugh explains, the HSE is highlighting the new website,, as the go-to resource for all breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families.

“We want to let mothers know about supports available on to help them to breastfeed for longer because the longer a mother breastfeeds, the greater the health protection for her and her child.”

Mychild includes extensive breastfeeding information, videos and guides as well as the ‘Ask our Breastfeeding Expert’ service – plus all the wider pregnancy and child health information from the HSE.

This Breastfeeding Week, the HSE would also like to let mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families, know about the importance of skin-to-skin contact after birth in helping to get breastfeeding off to a good start and what supports are available on

“We know that skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour immediately after birth helps get breastfeeding off to a good start,” McHugh explains. “The good news is that we now know that the practice of skin-to-skin contact after birth is widespread across our maternity services.”

New evidence from hospitals suggests that 86 per cent of all healthy term babies receive skin to skin contact after birth.

Ms McHugh explains that by placing the baby unclothed directly onto their mother’s chest immediately after birth for at least an hour, most babies will naturally seek out and feed at the breast. Some babies will need more time and help to initiate feeding. Skin-to-skin contact also helps mothers to recognise and respond to their baby’s signals and stimulates the release of hormones to support bonding and breastfeeding.

National Breastfeed Week

And McHugh highlights the importance of a good support system too:

“We encourage fathers and partners – and other family members, to get involved and informed about both the benefits or breastfeeding and how to best help and support the breastfeeding mother,” she explains. “Studies often show that chances of breastfeeding success are higher if the mother has a good support network and people around her who helps out and cheers her on for the amazing job she is doing.”

This week, the HSE is sending out information packs to maternity hospitals and primary care centres across the country and providing reusable water bottles to all women who give birth this week promoting and the message that every breastfeed makes a difference to health.

National Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1st – 7th October. Over 100 events will take place from coffee mornings to support group activities, and even a visit by breastfeeding mums and their babies to Áras an Uactaráin – to celebrate how everyone can support mothers to breastfeed. To find out about an event in your area, contact your local breastfeeding support group, details of which are on

To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, see the HSE Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #breastfeedingweek