Written Answers. - National Breastfeeding Policy.

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

92 Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps, if any, which he has taken towards the implementation of a national breastfeeding policy for Ireland 1994; if he will ensure that the training pack for professionals which was produced in May 1998 by the Centre for Health Promotion Studies, UCG, will be widely advertised and promoted; the plans, if any, he has to initiate an awareness campaign on the benefits of breastfeeding similar to the campaign for the anti-flu vaccine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1954/99]

My Department, through the health promotion unit, has been involved in a number of initiatives to improve the incidence of breastfeeding in Ireland including the production of materials encouraging breastfeeding. The training pack for health professionals to which the Deputy refers was produced and developed by the Centre for Health Promotion Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the Health Promotion Unit and An Bord Altranais. The pack was funded by the Health Promotion Unit and is designed to equip health professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge to assist mothers in breastfeeding. It is recognised that the support of health professionals is critical to the success of the national breastfeeding policy as they are the first point of contact for the mother during pregnancy and after childbirth and are ideally placed to ensure that the mother receives information about the benefits of breastfeeding in order that she can make an informed choice. Copies of the materials have been widely disseminated.

The "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which is a global campaign lead by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to encourage hospitals and health workers to support mothers to breastfeed, has been recently established in Ireland. Participation in this initiative was recommended in the national breastfeeding policy for Ireland and I am confident that participation in this initiative will result in an increase in the incidence of breastfeeding in this country. There are no plans, at this stage, to initiate a breastfeeding awareness campaign.