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Majority of approved lactation posts ‘filled’ – HSE

By David Lynch - 27th Aug 2023

lactation posts

Most of the “infant feeding/lactation” posts approved by the HSE in the last two years have now been filled, the Executive has stated.

As of July, 34.5 whole-time equivalent (WTE) new posts had been approved over the last two years. Some 31 of these posts have been filled, while one appointee is due to start this month and three are awaiting start dates. In total, 55.1 WTE dedicated lactation staff were employed in the HSE, with 35.5 working in maternity services and 19.6 in primary care.

“Breastfeeding supports are provided through all maternity and public health nursing and HSE-funded volunteer services, and work is continuing to enhance the availability of these supports,” said the spokesperson.

Dedicated lactation posts complemented existing supports, “providing a specialist 1:1 service” and supporting the training of frontline staff, they added.

The HSE will also begin rolling out an updated national infant feeding education programme for midwives and public health nurses in the coming months.

In an interview in the last edition of the Medical Independent, Prof Afif El-Khuffash, Consultant Neonatologist at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, said more staffing was required to support breastfeeding in hospitals and the community. He cited challenges with the recruitment and retention of midwives and nurses as a particular concern.

According to the Irish Maternity Indicator Report 2021, Ireland’s breastfeeding rates are among the lowest globally. Only 62.3 per cent of babies are breastfed at birth, compared to 90 per cent in Australia and 81 per cent in the UK, and only 37 per cent of babies are discharged from hospitals being breastfed exclusively. At three months old, the number is 31.2 per cent, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

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