Monica Uí Dúill with baby Liam ó Dúill from Roundwood, Co Wicklow with Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister of State for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD.

HSE National Breastfeeding Week 2019

Irish hospitals ‘latching on’ to importance of skin-to-skin

Every breastfeed makes a difference –

Today, Tuesday 1st October, marks the first day of National Breastfeeding Week, the theme of which is ‘Every Breastfeed Makes a Difference.’

The HSE would like to let mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families, know about the importance of skin-to-skin contact after birth in helping to get breastfeeding off to a good start and what supports are available on

Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, said: “We know that skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour immediately after birth helps get breastfeeding off to a good start. The good news is that we now know that the practice of skin-to-skin contact after birth is widespread across our maternity services.”

86 per cent of all babies receiving skin-to-skin contact after birth

New evidence from hospitals suggests that 86 per cent of all healthy term babies receive skin to skin contact after birth.1

Ms McHugh explains that by placing the baby unclothed directly onto their mother’s chest immediately after birth for at least an hour, most babies will naturally seek out and feed at the breast. Some babies will need more time and help to initiate feeding. Skin-to-skin contact also helps mothers to recognise and respond to their baby’s signals and stimulates the release of hormones to support bonding and breastfeeding.

Other benefits of skin-to-skin contact after birth include:

  • Helping the baby adjust to life outside the womb
  • Calming and relaxing both mother and baby
  • Regulating the babies temperature and keeping them warm
  • Getting mothers familiar with their baby’s signals and bonding with their baby
  • Passing on good bacteria from the mothers skin to the baby’s skin to help protect against infection.

“Your birth partner can also take part in skin-to-skin contact to bond with the baby, if the mother is needing medical attention immediately after the birth. This skin-to-skin contact will be calming for babies and the cuddles also help them to bond,” said Ms McHugh.

6 in 10 babies breastfed on leaving hospital – ‘Every breastfeed makes a difference.’

The latest data shows that 60 per cent of babies in Ireland are breastfed on leaving hospital.2  This is an increase of 10 per cent in the last 10 years.3

The HSE is sending out information packs to maternity hospitals and primary care centres across the country and providing reusable water bottles to all women who give birth this week promoting and the message that every breastfeed makes a difference to health.

McHugh says “Having a baby is a life changing time. For many mothers, breastfeeding is a new skill that takes time and practice to master. We want to let mothers know about supports available on to help them to breastfeed for longer because the longer a mother breastfeeds, the greater the health protection for her and her child. as the go-to resource

This year the HSE is highlighting the new website,, as the go-to resource for all breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be, and their families.  Mychild includes extensive breastfeeding information, videos and guides as well as the ‘Ask our Breastfeeding Expert’ service – plus all the wider pregnancy and child health information from the HSE.4

Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: “Every breastfeed makes a positive difference to the health of mother and baby, so supporting mothers to breastfeed and taking action to improve breastfeeding rates, are important objectives of many health policies.  Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are slowly increasing but we have significant more work to do. It is essential the health service do everything it can to drive those rates up and create a more supportive culture in our society.  Last week, I launched a new Women’s Health Taskforce to boost the collaborative work to improve health outcomes for women and their experience of health services. As part of the Taskforce’s work we are inviting women to tell us about their experiences and their ideas how we can work together to improve women’s health. I would really encourage women to discuss their experiences of breastfeeding, why they did, why they do not do it. This conversation will be vital to ensuring we improve rates.”

Minister of State for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne said: “Supporting mothers to breastfeed is so important, as every breastfeed makes a difference. The HSE website is a great resource for breastfeeding mothers, mother-to-be and their families.  It is also important we create a supportive culture in wider society. One excellent initiative is the ‘We’re Breastfeeding Friendly’ initiative, which started in Limerick with Healthy Ireland funding and which other cities and counties are looking to adopt.  Research shows that mothers feel more comfortable when the places they are breastfeeding in have a welcoming, helpful attitude and I would encourage all counties and organisations to join this great initiative.”

National Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1st – 7th October. Over 100 events will take place from coffee mornings to support group activities, and even a visit by breastfeeding mums and their babies to Áras an Uactaráin – to celebrate how everyone can support mothers to breastfeed. To find out about an event in your area, contact your local breastfeeding support group, details of which are on

To join the HSE parenting and breastfeeding community, see the HSE Facebook page and hse_mychild on Instagram #hsemychild #breastfeeding #breastfeedingweek