Irish hospitals ‘latching on’ to importance of skin-to-skin

HSE National Breastfeeding Week 2019

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

Irish hospitals ‘latching on’ to importance of skin-to-skin

Minister for Health Simon Harris promoting Breastfeeding Week

This is National Breastfeeding Week, the theme of which is Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference.
 
The HSE would 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 mychild.ie.
 
Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, said: “We know that skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour immediately after birth helps get breastfeeding off to a good start. 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% 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.
 
Other benefits of skin-to-skin contact after birth include:
§  Helping the baby adjust to life outside the womb
§  Calming and relaxing both mother and baby
§  Regulating the babies temperature and keeping them warm
§  Getting mothers familiar with their baby’s signals and bonding with their baby
§  Passing on good bacteria from the mothers skin to the baby’s skin to help protect against infection.
 
“Your birth partner can also take part in skin-to-skin contact to bond with the baby, if the mother is needing medical attention immediately after the birth. This skin-to-skin contact will be calming for babies and the cuddles also help them to bond,” said Ms McHugh.

The latest data shows that 60% of babies in Ireland are breastfed on leaving hospital. This is an increase of 10% in the last 10 years.
 
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 mychild.ie and the message that every breastfeed makes a difference to health.
 
McHugh says “Having a baby is a life changing time. For many mothers, breastfeeding is a new skill that takes time and practice to master. We want to let mothers know about supports available on mychild.ie to help them to breastfeed for longer because the longer a mother breastfeeds, the greater the health protection for her and her child.

This year the HSE is highlighting the new website, mychild.ie, as the go-to resource for all breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families.  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.
 
Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: "Every breastfeed makes a positive difference to the health of mother and baby, so supporting mothers to breastfeed and taking action to improve breastfeeding rates, are important objectives of many health policies.  Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are slowly increasing but we have significant more work to do. It is essential the health service do everything it can to drive those rates up and create a more supportive culture in our society.  Last week, I launched a new Women's Health Taskforce to boost the collaborative work to improve health outcomes for women and their experience of health services. As part of the Taskforce's work we are inviting women to tell us about their experiences and their ideas how we can work together to improve women's health. I would really encourage women to discuss their experiences of breastfeeding, why they did, why they do not do it. This conversation will be vital to ensuring we improve rates."

National Breastfeeding Week takes place from October 1-7. 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 mychild.ie.  
 
To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, see the HSE mychild.ie Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #breastfeedingweek