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Good Health Begins with Breastfeeding

1039 breastfeeding largeGood Health Begins with Breastfeeding is the theme of National Breastfeeding Week 2012 which takes place from the 1st to the 7th October. Events will take place around the country to make the week and to promote the importance of breastfeeding for the health of children. The week also focuses on providing information to families on breastfeeding supports in the community. A list of events for National Breastfeeding Week, breastfeeding support groups in each County and lots of helpful information can be found at or 1850 24 1850. If you would like events in your area to be included, please email

The week of events planned for National Breastfeeding Week, start the previous weekend with the Annual Conference of the Association of Lactation Consultants on the 29th of September in the Glenroyal Hotel, Maynooth. This conference is open to all health care professionals. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Suzanne Colson, who will present on Biological Nurturing. Biological nurturing is an approach to breastfeeding approach that validates maternal breastfeeding instincts and mothers’ innate capacity to breastfeed. Further information on the conference and booking details are available at

Saturday the 29th of September is also the date of the Global Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. This year there are 8 Breastfeeding Challenge locations around Ireland – in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Portlaoise, Mullingar, Letterkenny and Armagh. Last year Friends of Breastfeeding coordinated the Irish leg of the Challenge with nearly 400 children breastfeeding simultaneously. Dublin, which had 146 nurslings, and Cork (which was only just behind with 145) were the top two sites in the world for 2011for numbers of babies breastfed as part of the global challenge. Further details on the Challenge and locations is available at The aim of the Quintessence

Breastfeeding Challenge  is to raise public awareness of the need for information and support for breastfeeding families and the normalisation of breastfeeding in society.

On Monday the 1st of October Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in partnership with the HSE National Office for Health Promotion will host a half-day conference entitled "Breastfeeding in Ireland 2012: Consequences and Policy Responses". The conference is open to policy makers across sectors and will examine evidence on breastfeeding in Ireland and explore policy interventions that are needed to promote and support breastfeeding in this country. The conference will be opened by Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, T.D.

On Tuesday  the 2nd of October Concern launch their Mother to Mother project The 1,000 Days partnership promotes targeted action and investment to improve nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 days between a woman's pregnancy and her child's 2nd birthday when better nutrition can have a life-changing impact on a child's future and help break the cycle of poverty. This involves promoting good nutritional practices, including breastfeeding and appropriate, healthy foods for infants.

On Saturday the 6th of October and Sunday the 7th of October the Cuidiu- Irish Childbirth Trust host their National Conference in the Oriel Hotel, Cork. The theme this year is ‘the Confident Parent’. Cuidiú-Irish Childbirth Trust provides a parent-to-parent support service encouraging a confident, positive approach to parenting; empowering parents to make health enhancing informed choices about issues relating to pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting skills from birth through childhood.

Many other local events such as coffee morning and celebrations by breastfeeding support groups will take place around the country during the week.

Breastfeeding protects the health of babies and their mothers in the short and long term. Breastmilk gives babies all the nutrients they need for the first six months of life and protects them from infection and disease. Children who are not breastfed have an increased incidence and severity of many childhood and adult illnesses. Children who are not breastfed have an increased incidence and severity of gastro-intestinal infections, ear infections, respiratory infections, asthma, eczema diabetes and obesity in later childhood. Breastfeeding helps to protect mothers from breast and ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Expectant families need information on the importance of breastfeeding for their baby’s health and for their health too.

It is very good news for Ireland that our breastfeeding rates are continuing to increase. However, they are well below the European average of 89%. Breastfeeding rates are gradually increasing in Ireland. The most recently published ESRI figures on breastfeeding on discharge from hospital report that in 2010 54.1% of babies were breastfed on discharge from maternity hospital with 46.2% exclusively breastfeeding. Looking at these figures another way, the rate of artificial feeding is reducing with 46% of babies artificially feeding on discharge in 2010, an improvement from 58% artificially feeding in 2001.

Breastfeeding is a public health priority in Ireland and we must continue our efforts to promote breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a rewarding experience and it is important that women are supported to breastfeed their babies, so that more women are assist to start to breastfeed and to continue to breastfeed for longer. Breastmilk is the complete food for babies for the first 6 months of life and women can continue to breastfeed as other foods are introduced up to 2 years or longer.

Women need support and helpful information especially in the early days when they are starting to breastfeed their newborn baby and making the transition from maternity care to home. When breastfeeding is established women can enjoy all the rewards of breastfeeding as it becomes more enjoyable and easier for Mum and baby. It is a very special time with baby and it is so convenient when feeding at home or out and about.

The HSE’s online resource – – contains lots of information for expectant and breastfeeding mothers including a listing of support groups by county, information leaflets for download, factsheets for health professional and a questions and answers section. Details of support groups are also available by calling 1850 24 1850. Support groups are provided by Public Health Nurses, La Leche League and Cuidiu

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