Breaking news AIMSI survey of nearly 3,000 women shows 1 in 4 women rated breastfeeding support as “poor” or “very poor”

One in four women rate the support they received for breastfeeding their baby after birth as “poor” or “very poor”

October 5th 2015

For immediate release October 5th 2015
Contact Krysia Lynch 0877543751

In a survey of 2832 service users, AIMS Ireland (Association for the Improvements in the Maternity Services) found that 24.6% of respondents rated the support they received for breastfeeding their baby after birth as either “poor” or “very poor”, with 13.3%, or 1 in 7 respondents rating the support as “very poor”.

As part of AMSI s What Matters to You Survey carried out in the second half of 2014, women were asked to rate the breastfeeding support they received. Whilst 16.3% stated the support was “excellent”, and 18.8% rated the service as “good”, the majority of respondents found the service to be suboptimal.

Ireland currently has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe at discharge (56% initiated any breastfeeding in 2013, ESRI) and this drops dramatically within the subsequent weeks and months. Research shows us that support for breastfeeding in the immediate postpartum days are vital in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

Chair of AIMSI Krysia Lynch said “Many women want to breastfeed and to be successful in breastfeeding. They want to follow the advice that they are given antenatally and by the Department of Health and Children and also by the WHO. However, women need to be supported in their breastfeeding journey. Immediately after birth, whether that birth is a normal delivery or a caesarean birth, women need to be with their baby to encourage the physiological process of breastfeeding. Following on from those early hours, women need continued support during the early days. When women are discharged from hospital or domiciliary care they need to be supported in breastfeeding in the wider community. None of this can happen if women do not receive adequate support at the start.Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed at the breast within the first 24 – 48 hours are more likely to be breastfeeding at six months, so early support is vital if we are to improve our breastfeeding rates.”

Lynch continued “Respondents had many concerns about the support they received for breastfeeding. One of the key issues was the variability in terms of information and advice. Respondents stated this varied from midwife to midwife, from public to private and from day time to night time. Many respondents also lamented the lack of specialised lactation support over the weekends. This means that women who give birth on a Friday evening may not ever receive any help from a lactation consultant before discharge. Many respondents commented on how quickly staff were to hand over artificial milk despite a mother’s intention to breastfeed and hospital charters dictating otherwise. Finally respondents commented on the difficulties and lack of facilities for breastfeeding a baby in the NICU, or being facilitated with skin to skin following a caesarean birth.”

Lynch concludes “We all have our role to play in order to support breastfeeding in Ireland; not just to improve rates, but also to ensure that our future generations are as healthy and well as they can be. Its important to listen and learn from women’s experiences.”



AIMSI Survey What Matters To You 2014

N =2832 respondents

Q76 If you breastfed your baby how would you rate the breastfeeding support you received?

Excellent       16.3%

Good              18.6%

Fair                 18.8%

Poor                11.3%

Very poor      13.3%

N/A                  21.8%

 Q77 Is there anything else you would like to add about the support you received for breastfeeding?

 A selection of women’s responses. Full set of 2832 comments available on request.

 The ten key concerns that women have are:

  1. The variability of support. Different midwives will offer different levels of support and different information which for a mother is confusing and difficult.
  2. The lack of availability of lactation consultants on duty on the weekends. Mothers who give birth on Friday evening and are due to be discharged on Monday may receive no specialised lactation care at all.
  3. The lack of evidenced based information surrounding breastfeeding information and advice
  4. The lack of support for women breastfeeding who are not on their first baby
  5. The prevalence of artificial milk and offers of artificial milk despite the lack of clinical need
  6. The lack of skin to skin contact following caesarean birth even when mother and baby are well
  7. The poor facilities in the NICU for breastfeeding and the lack of contact breastfeeding mothers and babies were able to have
  8. The lack of “buy in” from hospital staff outside of the postnatal unit for breastfeeding
  9. The limited number of hospital pumps for mums who need to express or are told to express milk for their baby(
  10. The improved level of support in private care settings (including home birth) than in public ones

 “It varied from staff member to staff member. No one had the time to sit down with me. Lactation consultants did not work at the weekends so I struggled from Friday until 3pm on Monday when they arrived. It was too late, I was bleeding and traumatised and had been bullied into giving formula. I am still sad and angry about this.”

“Ireland has major issues in supporting mothers postnatally regarding breast feeding.   There needs to be more on hand immediate supports around the clock for new mothers followed up with home visits every week for 2 months while they get set up and into the swing of it.   Right now – in my opinion there is a complete lack of supports for breast feeding mothers and a structured program to encourage what is a completely natural process.  They even encourage bottle feeding in the hospital for fear of being too PC.  Yes it is a choice but breast feeding should be encouraged as the first choice and so be it if it doesnt’ work out but without the supports in place and emotional supports mothers will not succeed.”

“I had to obtain my own lactation consultant on discharge from the hospital who was helpful but the advice and care wrt it in the hospital was terrible. Without the care of the private lactation consultant I likely would not have been as successful with the feeding as I was.”

“The breastfeeding never worked. The baby wasn’t suckling. I am disappointed that I had to suggest different techniques myself, i.e. expressing, when all the lactation consultants could do was to shove my baby’s tiny little face onto by breast, which he obviously hated.”

“Mixed-during the day had a brilliant nurse who helped loads and I really feel she made it work for me. But at night they were even more understaffed and had some very unhelpful and wrong advice, suggesting I needed be a martyr and could give a bottle. This was on the 2nd night when I was a bit tearful but was having absolute no Breastfeeding issues. I think she just didn’t have time to listen or help me.”

“, I found the advice and support given to me at the hospital quite poor. I gave birth on a Friday night and it was very clear to me that because my stay in the hospital happened to be on a weekend, there wasn’t enough staff to go around to have the support I needed with getting breastfeeding started”

“Advice to ‘top up’ on day three was detrimental to the health of my baby, it completely shook my confidence as a vulnerable young mother, considerably emotional in the days postpartum. I very strongly believe that this was the reason my baby ended up being continuously supplemented with formula as I felt my supply wasn’t sufficient to meet the needs of my baby, that she was ‘too hungry’. I was not supported to meet the WHO recommendations of exclusive breast feeding for 6 months and with complementary solids to two years and beyond. My daughter was supplemented with formula milk from day 3 of her life, thus impacting negatively on my supply and despite an attempt at relactation, my daughter was fully weaned from the breast by 5 months old. This was a big contributing factor to feelings of guilt and depression in the months following the birth of my daughter.”

“Excellent in semi private, not good in public. Was put in public for one night due to non availability in SP.”

“Most of the midwives were excellent. Except for the woman who was on at night. There are a number of things she did that hindered my breastfeeding relationship and early days of being a mother.  1. She would not let me put him in the bed so I didn’t sleep in hospital  2. She walked in one time I was feeding him and put her finger into his mouth to unlatch him. Her reason was that he was feeding too long and that I was not a human soother.  3. She took him for a few hours on night 2 and gave him a bottle of formula. She KNEW I was trying to breastfeed.  Thankfully it didn’t affect us and we are still nursing at 3+ year.”

“It is outrageous that when a person wants to do as public policy recommends that there is little support available.”

“Was made to feel like a failure by the first nurse as baby was not latching, and she seemed very frustrated with me and was very rough in her way of trying to get the baby to latch and told me they would have to give a bottle if she didnt feed in the next hour. On the next shift I was lucky to have a lovely nurse who sat & spent time with me and eventually all worked out. The nurses need to be singing from the same hymn sheet would often get contradicting advice, and each mother should have a lactation specialist at least for 1 hour if things are difficult. If you want more mothers to successfully BF then the nurses need to me better trained.”

“The majority of midwives were very unsupportive of my decision to breastfeed and continuously tried to get me to use formula”

“This is something that upset and bothered me hugely. I felt that HCPs were very quick to recommend breastfeeding but when it came to helping with feeding after baby is born they were nowhere to be found. I did some research myself on breastfeeding but was not told some very very simple things. Because of lack of help and support (no one in my family has ever breastfed) I introduced formula very early on and discontinued breastfeeding at 5 weeks. Not by choice!”

“I was only allowed home from [hospital name removed] after having my first baby provided I took 4 bottles of their formula with me (she was mildly jaundiced). I didn’t use them & she was fine. They should have helped me breastfeed rather than hand out formula! Disgraceful.”

“The help given was shocking, the way I was treated was shocking. Staff very uneducated on breastfeeding, very little help was given.”

“Nurses were helpful and encouraging to bf but I left the hospital confused about formula top ups.”

“Absolutely no support when trying to establish breast feeding. Health nurse was not helpful at all. I ended up as a result of constant pain when feeding giving up earlier than planned which I felt extremely disappointing. I feel a breast feeding support should call to your home as well as phn if you require.”

“There were no Lactation Consultants on duty at the hospital over the weekend, which I thought was absolutely terrible.”

“Midwife information was excellent.  Paediatricians advice was pushing formula”

“I have no doubt that without the support from the MWs on the ward (one particular amazing MW who we called our Christmas angel) that I would not be BFing now. I also had/have wonderful support from the domino MWs that visited me and from the district nurses in the area. I was through advice from the district nurse that I started supplementing with formal due to my baby losing weight. Due to how hard I was finding BF the lactation consultant agreed to see me on the Saturday after Christmas after a clinic she was running…this from what I could tell was on her own time. I am extremely grateful for her help and support as there was no support available over that period in the community.”

“No advice  Offered bottles every time they came round  In a ward of 10 – I was only one breastfeeding  No chair to even sit in  Broken bed back so had to sit unsupported to feed      Only plus was the midwife on the second night taught me how to feed lying down.”

“Didnt get any in the hospital but the community midwifes were fantastic and I felt I could call anytime for advice”.

“I found [hospital name removed] very supportive of breastfeeding. I have heard after an emergency section some mothers have problems breastfeeding but [hospital name removed] ensured that I had skin to skin and breastfed in the recovery suite.  I had been advised to ask the midwives for support while doing the feeds which I did and I found them very good and helpful including showing me a number of positions which was great and this is one of the big reasons because breastfeeding has gone very well for us.”

“I wanted to breastfeed but didn’t get much help.  I was encouraged to pump which I did but no-one in the NICU ever helped me to get either baby to latch on. The midwife on the ward helped me to hand express at the start but she was so busy that I had to remind her a number of times. I was invited to a class by the lactation consultant but I was in the middle of tube feeding my twins at the time & didn’t want to leave. I feel there should be a lactation nurse specifically assigned to the NICU as it’s such an emotionally draining time & place & you don’t want to sit in a class with other mums who have their babies in their arms.”

“I was told I could not breastfeed my baby on my first visit to icu to meet her, 36 hours after birth ,while a midwife bottle fed her in front of me. It was humiliating. Again on my second visit I was discouraged as they said they needed to monitor how much she was consuming as she had been vomiting. And yet they claim to be pro breastfeeding  Nobody encouraged me to pump for those 36 hours after birth and when I asked for a pump I was told there was only 2 and they were both being used.   As a result of this poor care I was never able to build up a proper milk supply to meet her demands and had to combination feed. In the end I could only keep it up for 3months as she eventually wouldn’t feed off breast anymore.”

“Best advice came from a student midwife.”

“Great Support but I think Hospitals need to go even further with promoting Breastfeeding”.

“There was a shocking lack of encouragement, support, information in this very important time on the ward. The staff were too bust to be proactive, they mostly had time just to respond to the call bell. This is a disgrace given the proven long term benefits of breast feeding to baby, mothers and society. Really disappointing, no wonder our rates are so embarrassingly low”

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