Closure of Baby Friendly Health Initiative bad news for Irish mothers

27 September 2017

Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys has slammed the failure of the HSE for withdrawing funding from the Baby Friendly Health Initiative. Following the loss of €50,000 in funding itI has been forced to close and this comes just days before National Breastfeeding Week starts on 1st October.

Senator Humphreys said:

“Having worked in Ireland for nearly 20 years, the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) has now been forced to close following the withdrawal of funding by the HSE. It is disgraceful that the HSE could claim to want to improve breastfeeding rates while discontinuing the initiative.

“It is a sad reflection of how the HSE acts that this happened just days before the start of National Breastfeeding Week.

“For want of just over €50,000 a year this critical initiative that has fostered maternal health and breastfeeding has been lost to Ireland. It is a bad news for Irish mothers that this initiative has been allowed close.

“Every Irish maternity hospital should meet the international standards of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) in order to promote and protect the health and development of our children and their mothers.

“The BFHI in Ireland has been active since 1998, and in early 2017 53% of the maternity facilities had been externally assessed as meeting the global standards.

“Since then funding was withdrawn from the BFHI and activities limited. By supporting the BFHI to be active in each hospital, we can better support mothers and the health of our children.

“The BFHI is currently the international metric available to measure the progress of maternity hospitals towards providing an evidence based breastfeeding supportive environment.

“Without this initiative, the HSE is essentially setting its own standards and self-evaluating its activities thus limiting the potential to improve. Quality support needs to be facilitated by having the BFHI providing information on the standards, supporting hospitals to reach these standards and carrying out external assessments and on-going monitoring in all maternity units. The global standards for neonatal units and community health services could be implemented and monitored if the BFHI was expanded into these services.

“The Labour Party in our recent policy paper on supporting breast-feeding in Ireland recommended that the Baby Friendly Health Initiative in Ireland, an independent charity, should have its annual funding of €50,000 immediately restored.

“The BFHI should have adequate resources to support and monitor our hospitals.We also believe that participation in the BFHI should be mandatory for all maternity hospitals and units to ensure a national standard is in place.

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