Pictured (l-r) are: Lucinda Murrihy with her 3-month-old baby Chloe, Laura Campbell with her 4-month-old baby James and Rowena Duffy with her 6-month-old baby Isabella as the HSE marks National Breastfeeding Week

South Dublin has been praised for having the highest breastfeeding rates in the country.

To celebrate these high rates, Dublin South East Public Health Nursing held two public events during National Breastfeeding Week last week.

According to the HSE, breastfeeding is “thriving” on the Southside, where eight out of ten babies breastfeed compared to two out of ten in Donegal.

Breastfeeding is a high priority public health issue and while a natural process, it is still a learned skill that may require assistance, support and encouragement. Public Health Nurses (PHN) in Dublin South East are available to visit every new mother within 72 hours of birth to deliver this support and assistance.

In a bid to further enhance initiation and duration rates, local PHNs are investing in lactation specialist posts and training for staff.

It is hoped that this investment will enable more mothers to breastfeed, thus improving health outcomes for both mothers and babies.

A special interest group of PHNs are striving to improve policy and practice by meeting regularly and setting local targets.

In the community, the PHNs are hosting support group meetings in local coffee shops and hotels.

In doing this, they are striving to promote the philosophy of Jack Newman, a world leader in breastfeeding advocacy and support, who said that the more people see babies at the breast, the more normal it will be.

Last week’s events took place in St Helens Radisson Hotel Stillorgan and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Dundrum.

A spokesperson from the HSE said that it is hoped that these events will “inspire conversation, increase awareness, share information and ensure that people make infomed decisions about the most beneficial feeding method for all infants”.

The Department of Health and HSE recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months, after which it is recommended to continue to breastfeed in combination with nutritious and safe complementary foods for up to two years or older.

Children who are not breastfed have an increased incidence and severity of many childhood illnesses and risk factors for future illness.

It also helps to protect mothers from breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes, and helps mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. Mothers burn approximately 500 calories each day that they breastfeed.

For more, see breastfeeding.ie.