GPs should promote breastfeeding, says Labour

Party proposes measures to counteract Ireland’s ‘formula feeding culture’

Labour Party member Loraine Mulligan breastfeeding her son Dylan at the launch of a  Labour party policy paper on breastfeeding. Photograph: Alan Betson

Labour Party member Loraine Mulligan breastfeeding her son Dylan at the launch of a Labour party policy paper on breastfeeding. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

GPs should be made responsible for outlining the importance of breastfeeding to pregnant women, a new Labour Party policy has proposed.

Former Labour chairwoman Loraine Mulligan breastfed her son Dylan as she chaired an event to launch Senator Kevin Humphreys’s policy, which also calls for funding for a human donor milk bank in the Republic.

Mr Humphreys said there were many reasons for Ireland’s low breastfeeding rates, but some women were made to feel uncomfortable with their body shapes and had been put off feeding their babies themselves for that reason.

“What we have in Ireland now is a formula feeding culture and we need to move it back into a breastfeeding-centred culture,” he said.

The policy proposes updating the Maternity and Infant Care scheme, which currently covers six GP visits, to provide one additional GP antenatal care consultation “dedicated to fostering a positive breastfeeding discussion”.

During the additional consultation, the GP would be responsible for outlining the importance of breastfeeding and providing educational information from non-commercial sources, as well as contact details for local support groups.

The development of the new National Maternity Hospital will provide a “once in a generation” opportunity to transform breastfeeding services, according to the policy. It says staff at all maternity facilities must have adequate time to assist mothers and babies to establish breastfeeding.

Option of one free visit at home from a qualified lactation consultant should be offered to all new mothers

The document recommends mothers should have the option to avail of co-sleeping beds or “bassinet attachments” in the hospital to allow for close contact with babies, as the first 24-48 hours is considered crucial for establishing early breastfeeding.

All healthcare professionals should receive breastfeeding training during their time as students and in the workplace, while there should be a minimum of one certified lactation consultant in every maternity hospital per 1,000 births, “available all hours”.

The option of one free visit at home from a qualified lactation consultant should be offered to all new mothers, it says.

Mr Humphreys’s policy also suggests that current regulations allowing mothers to take breastfeeding or pumping breaks in the workplace for a period of up to six months after birth should be extended to 12 months.

“There is an effective legal barrier in place for women who want to breastfeed when they return to work. This means that many mothers will wean their child in advance of returning to the workplace,” the document says.

The document states maternal and neonatal issues which could impair successful early establishment of breastfeeding should be appropriately addressed during antenatal care and before leaving hospital.