Department of Health and Children announces policy change in breastfeeding guidelines

5 August 2003

To coincide with World Breastfeeding Week, the Department of Health and Children today announced a policy change in breastfeeding guidelines to bring Ireland into line with recommendations contained in the World Health Organisation´s (WHO) Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding. (endorsed by 55th World Health Assembly, Geneva, May 2002)

The new Strategy, which is based on a WHO commissioned worldwide systematic review of research evidence on breastfeeding, showed that there are added advantages to delaying the introduction of complementary solid foods.

Therefore breastfeeding mothers are now being encouraged to delay the introduction of any food or drink, other than breast milk, until their babies are 6 months old. They are also being encouraged to continue breastfeeding after that in combination with appropriate complementary foods (solids) up until the age of 2 years or beyond.

In this way the maximum advantages from breastfeeding can be achieved. Compelling evidence is now showing that breastfeeding can have a significant impact on establishing the foundation for a lifetime of optimal health and can also result in significant reductions in health spending.

In supporting the policy change Mr. Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children said "We all need to be consistent and unequivocal in our support of breastfeeding as it offers a critical window of opportunity to provide the best short and long-term health for babies and their mothers. The new recommendation gives health professionals, families and the general public clear guidance on how the advantages of breastfeeding can be maximised".

The new breastfeeding guidelines are also supported and welcomed by:

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists;
The Faculty of Paediatrics;
La Leche League of Ireland;
The Midwifery Forum;
The Institute of Community Health Nursing;
Cuidiú-Irish Childbirth Trust;
The Irish College of General Practitioners;
The Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland;
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in Ireland;
The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.

For further information please contact:
Maureen Fallon, National Breastfeeding Coordinator, Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children, Hawkins House, Dublin 2.
Tel. (01) 6354712
Email: Maureen_fallon@health.irlgov.ie