Breaking down the barriers to breastfeeding

A look at the barriers to breastfeeding that healthcare professionals must strive to overcome

Ms Jennifer Feighan, CEO, Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, Dublin

August 29, 2019

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  • The autumn issue of our journal takes a close look at breastfeeding, with the cover story discussing the barriers that must be overcome  as health professionals strive to support women to initiate and sustain breastfeeding. This isn’t something that we have managed to do particularly well in Ireland in recent years so it is encouraging to see the work of Dr Sharleen O’Reilly, supported by Prof Fionnuala McAuliffe and her colleagues at UCD and the NMH.

    There are so many factors to consider as we seek to optimise nutrition for mothers and babies. Every new parent wants to do the best for their child, but lack of family or societal support can make it a challenge to breastfeed. Often, new mums are overwhelmed by and underprepared for the huge physical and emotional changes that accompany motherhood. There are so many conflicting messages, with everyone knowing best!

    We must acknowledge these barriers and develop strategies to overcome them. Given the expectant and new mother’s relatively short time in hospital, opportunities for intervention can be limited and must be delivered  before and after birth by a range of health professionals. Often it is a woman’s first interaction with our health service and the reality can be  very different to expectation.

    Minster for Health Simon Harris has published some details of the biggest restructuring of the HSE since it was established. This will involve more local management and governance of services and we hope vastly improved geographic alignment, so that care can be delivered to patients and service users in the most appropriate setting.

    Sláintecare has advised that it is mapping the infrastructure that exists in each region and will be consulting on the new structures in the coming months. Dietetics is a small profession relatively speaking. There are 1,000 registered dietitians in Ireland and they are the youngest and most female of all the health and social care professionals regulated by CORU, with an average age of 30-38. We need to ensure that we have a flexible workforce with good career progression pathways. It is time for us to get involved and work in multidisciplinary teams to ensure that nutritional health for all is prioritised.

    For many years INDI has been based in Ashgrove House in Dun Laoghaire. In 2016, we agreed with the Airfield Trust that we would work together on issues of shared interest with a view to INDI moving onto the Airfield site. We are delighted to announce that we are moving to Airfield in September. We will be the only dietetic association in the world to be based on a working farm!

    We look forward to welcoming you there at our AGM on October 5, 2019.

    © Medmedia Publications/Professional Nutrition and Dietetic Review 2019