The ERSI Perinatal Statistics Report for 2011 was released on the 20th December 2012. It had some good news on breastfeeding and reported that 55% of babies recorded any breastfeeding in 2011, compared to 51% in 2007 and 44% in 2002. A reported 47% of babies were exclusively breastfed, compared to 45% in 2007 and 41% in 2002. The rising rate of breastfeeding provide a healthy start for babies, aid long term health, and reduces national health care costs.
The report found that breastfeeding was more common than artificial feeding amongst mothers aged between 25 years or more, with the highest proportion of breastfeeding mothers in the 30–34 year age group, of whom 50.2 % reported that they were breastfeeding. The rise in breastfeeding in Ireland may be attributable to the increased population of non-Irish mothers who are more likely to breastfeed. Babies of Irish-born mothers and mothers under 25 years of age were reported in the 2011 statistics as least likely to be breastfeeding highlighting the major influence of the mother’s cultural and social background. Greater availability and access to International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) would assist in meeting the need for on-going support and promotion of breastfeeding in these mothers. Increased recognition of the importance of breastfeeding support in the early days combined with interaction between breastfeeding support organisations and the Health Service could help increase rates across the board.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a globally recognised qualification that identifies a member of the health care team who has acquired specialist skill, made an in depth study of breastfeeding and passed an international exam. IBCLCs work to promote, support and protect breastfeeding. The over 170 current International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) in Ireland have played a key role in the increase in breastfeeding rates. IBCLCs work in hospitals, community health services, education, private practice and national health promotion programmes. They work individually with mothers and groups as well as in training other health professionals and in policy implementation. Contact with an IBCLC can often be instrumental in getting breastfeeding off to a good start and can help mothers who may be having difficulties to solve them and continue breastfeeding.