There have been calls for the HSE to reconsider cuts to breastfeeding support services in the Dublin South East region.
Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, a lecturer in Mathematics and Education at UCD, has asked the health service to rethink its plans to remove the lactation consultant in the area.
Writing on Twitter yesterday, she said: "As if having a baby in a pandemic wasn’t difficult enough, [the HSE] want to cut the lactation consultant position in Dublin South East (and I imagine elsewhere if it’s the case here)! She has been invaluable to so many new mums in the area, both online and in person.
"No wonder Ireland has such low breastfeeding rates if this is such a low priority for the national state agency [HSE]. Lots of us will be making complaints to try to ensure the role is kept, but support from our local TDs also appreciated."
She added that it is "difficult to understand" why the HSE would potentially make such a move "when new moms and babies have little other supports in the pandemic" and called for them to keep the lactation consultant.
Several TDs have already responded saying they will address the issue and seek to halt the removal of the consultant, including the Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin, Social Democrats TD Jen Whitmore, and Fine Gael's Neale Richmond.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh, Dr Ní Shúilleabháin said the lactation consultant was an invaluable service.
The mother of two gave birth to her second child during the pandemic who was born with a tongue tie and a tooth, issues which she sought advice on from the consultant.
"The fact that she [the lactation consultant] is public means this is her expertise, so dozens and dozens of mums are accessing her services all of the time, so much so that she's had to put on extra online classes," Dr Ní Shúilleabháin said.
"The fact that this is her speciality means that we don't have to go to GPs.
"GPs are busy enough right now and they're also not trained and don't have the expertise either in breastfeeding.
"The fact that Dublin South East want to take this role away doesn't align with the programmes and policies we have in this country.
These include the National Maternity Strategy 2016-2026 that recognises the importance of "dedicated staff, such as the HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator and the wider
team of lactation consultants, and statutory and voluntary supports, in promoting and supporting breastfeeding in Ireland".
Spoke to @susankeoghnews on @NewstalkFM about this issue https://t.co/5OdsYNb2gs
— Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin 🇺🇦 (@aoibhinn_ni_s) January 23, 2021
She is hopeful that the HSE will reverse its decision in order to improve the breastfeeding rate in Ireland, which is one of the lowest in the world.
63.8% of women initiate breastfeeding at their baby’s first feed here, compared with rates of 81% in the UK, 79% in the US and 90% in Australia.
"Cutting this role is being pennywise but penny-foolish," Dr Ní Shúilleabháin said, as data shows breastfeeding lowers the baby's risk of contracting some infections and illnesses.
"Actually there should be far more lactation consultants around the country because so many women who have contacted me just in the last day said they gave up [breastfeeding] in the first days or weeks because they didn't have someone to call."
The HSE have been contacted for comment.