Feeding mothers want more home visits


PUBLIC HEALTH nurses (PHNs) should provide early and more regular home visits to support breastfeeding mothers and the PHN service should be extended from five to seven days a week, according to a new study.

The Infant Feeding Survey found that although breastfeeding rates in Ireland were among the lowest in Europe, the public health nursing services had a positive, professional and organisational attitude towards it.

The survey was commissioned by the HSE and undertaken by nurse/midwife researchers in UCC’s School of Nursing and Midwifery to review existing breastfeeding support services in Ireland. Some 1,854 mothers with children under three years (breastfeeders and formula feeders) took part in the study under principal investigator Dr Patricia Leahy-Warren.

Helen Mulcahy, lecturer at UCC’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “Overall, mothers had high breastfeeding self-efficacy , with a subgroup of mothers in which the levels were very high. PHNs had a more positive attitude to breastfeeding than breastfeeding mothers, which was statistically significant and an unexpected finding, but may be related to the fact that they had education in breastfeeding.”

Ms Mulcahy said the authors of the study had made 19 recommendations, almost all of which could be addressed with the implementation of an initiative based on the WHO/Unicef Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

“While PHNs in general had a very positive attitude to providing breastfeeding support and education to mothers, time was definitely an issue and other parts of their workload often took precedence over the provision of breastfeeding support.” she said.