Sabina Higgins has urged the HSE to allow new mothers to spend longer in hospital learning to breastfeed, rather than being “thrown out” after childbirth.
In a larger intervention, Ms Higgins called on the HSE to drastically improve its breastfeeding policy and make every midwife an expert in lactation.
She called on breastfeeding groups to lobby the government to counter “unaccountable” and well-funded companies that “foster” formulas on women around the world.
She spoke yesterday at an event in Áras an Uachtaráin to mark National Breastfeeding Week. The Latching On event was the first Ms Higgins has been able to host in two years due to the pandemic.
Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. About 40 percent of new moms are still breastfeeding three days after they are discharged from the hospital.
It is estimated that by six months, less than 10 percent of mothers are breastfeeding their babies.
Ms Higgins told an audience of breastfeeding mothers and advocacy groups that she was “embarrassed” to mention the breastfeeding rate in Ireland.
“Something big really needs to be done,” she said.
Ms Higgins said the HSE breastfeeding action plan should be fully funded and implemented and “every midwife should be a trained lactation professional who can help initiate and build up breastfeeding”.
The human rights lawyer said everyone is familiar with images of bottle babies seen on television.
“We constantly fed the formula, bottle babies are shown.
“It would be a highly desirable move by the HSE to have programs and regular advertising on television showing and about breastfeeding mothers.
“Rather than the daily ads we see for formula feed from largely unaccountable companies with huge financial resources pushing it all over the world.
“Because it’s not just an individual thing, breastfeeding. It is national, international and global.”
Ms Higgins accused companies of “pushing formulas” in parts of the world where there is limited access to clean water and high migration, and those same companies “trying to confuse with ads promoting the ‘follow-on’ formula.” speak”.
“Globally, these big corporations really have to face up,” she said.
Ms Higgins spoke directly to representatives from Cuidiú, the La Leche League of Ireland, the Community Midwives Association, the Association for Improvement in Maternity Services, Friends of Breastfeeding and the Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland who were in attendance and suggested that they “put together a plan “.
“That all these groups and the speakers … if we could get representatives from them and as a group we could go to the government and then to the different departments … I think that would be really worthwhile,” she said.
It comes weeks after Ms Higgins was in hot water for being spotted at a political intervention. In July, the president’s wife was embroiled in controversy after a letter she wrote to a newspaper about the Russian invasion of Ukraine was heavily criticized.
The letter had suggested that Russia and Ukraine should agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.
It was exploited by Russia’s ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, who supported it.
The letter was also published on the President’s website.
Yesterday the plush hallway of Áras an Uachtaráin was packed with prams and buggies as dozens of mothers came with their babies and toddlers.
During Mrs. Higgins’ speech in the State Reception Room, gurgles and burps could be heard, and some mothers had to scramble between chairs to catch stray tots threatening a stage invasion.
Harry Fitzpatrick, who is a year and a half, rolled on the carpet and laughed next to a table set with decadent canapés and refreshments.
“They don’t care where they are,” Sarah Fitzpatrick, his mother, said as she picked him up off the floor.
Ms Fitzpatrick and her school friend Ciara Bohan are both members of the Friends of Breastfeeding group in Mohill, Co. Leitrim.
The group eventually became a crucial support for women having babies during the pandemic who were at risk of losing personal support to help them learn to breastfeed.
“There was no support for women in lockdown. Luckily I was with my second baby, but it would have been very different if it had been my first,” she said.
Last year the HSE committed to recruiting 24 new community breastfeeding consultants across Ireland.
Ms. Bohan is one of only two hired so far, and she said it is only a part-time position.
Ms. Bohan said more investment needed to be made so women could have access to breastfeeding experts in their community.
“By the time people have a baby, they will know the names of all the formulas, but they may never have heard of a lactation consultant,” she said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/women-are-being-thrown-out-of-hospital-too-soon-after-giving-birth-warns-sabina-higgins-42028027.html Sabina Higgins warns that women are “thrown out” of the hospital too soon after giving birth