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Feeding the Future - healthy babies are the country’s future wealth and they need government support

Published: Friday, October 01, 2021

National Women’s Council and Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland call on government to prioritise infant and maternal health in Budget 2022

The National Women’s Council (NWC) and Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland (BFLGI) call on the government to prioritise infant and maternal health by funding and delivering the ‘Breastfeeding in a Healthy Ireland Action Plan’ and to protect all families from the aggressive marketing practices of infant formula companies by enforcing and updating infant feeding related legislation.

As part of National Breastfeeding Week October 1-7, NWC and BFLGI are hosting a public webinar ‘Feeding the Future: A Shared Responsibility’ on Monday October 4th.

Hosted by Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, the event will feature a keynote address from President Michael D Higgins and Mrs Sabina Higgins.

Panelists for the webinar include Laura McHugh, HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator, Prof. Gerard Hastings OBE, Professor Emeritus Stirling University, author of the research paper 'Selling Second Best - How Infant Formula Marketing Works', Dr Meredith Kinoshita, Pediatric Specialist Registrar, lead author of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland's Breastfeeding Position Paper, Orla O'Connor, Director, National Women's Council, Dr Liz O'Sullivan, Dietitian and Nutrition Researcher TU Dublin, BFLGI and Deborah Byrne, Bainne Beatha, a new mother who will speak about her recent experience of breastfeeding in Ireland.

The webinar will explore the different ways society can better protect and support breastfeeding, highlight the role breastfeeding can play in addressing women's health inequalities and examine how breastfeeding and infant nutrition should be adequately protected from commercial influences. The event is kindly funded by HSE Health and Wellbeing.

The Department of Health and WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first 6 months, after which mothers are recommended to continue breastfeeding, in combination with suitably nutritious and safe complementary foods, until their children are 2 years of age or older.

In Ireland 62.3% of mothers initiate breastfeeding in maternity hospitals compared to initiation rates of 90% in Australia, 81% in the UK and 79% in the USA[1].Yet fewer than 6% of babies in Ireland are exclusively breastfed at 6 months versus the European average of 25% and a global average of 38%[2]. The WHO global target for 2025 is at least 50% of babies to be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life.[3] Ireland has much to do to achieve those rates.

As Budget 2022 approaches, NWC and BFLGI are calling on government to recognise that funding breastfeeding is a prudent health investment in the future. Globally, scaling up breastfeeding can prevent 823,000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths annually, as well as prevent €302 billion in economic losses annually[4]. Breastfeeding provides a healthy, practical, sustainable, and natural source of nutrition which protects the child’s right to the highest standard of health as well as benefiting the mother’s health and wellbeing.

NWC and BFLGI are calling for government to use Budget 2022 to make a commitment to safeguard and promote the health of the next generation by:

  • Fully funding and implementing the National Maternity Strategy and the Breastfeeding in Healthy Ireland Action Plan in Budget ‘22. 
  • Reviewing and revising existing legislation on the marketing of infant formula to include protection for all infants and young children for the first 36 months and to include all items of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (‘the Code’) and its subsequent additions. This legislation needs to be policed and enforced.

Speaking ahead of the event, panelist Dr Meredith Kinoshita, Pediatric Specialist Registrar said:

“Doctors and healthcare workers have a big role to play in creating a supportive breastfeeding culture within the healthcare system. Greater support for breastfeeding families, education for the public and for healthcare professionals, improvements in hospital facilities to support breastfeeding and a greater commitment to monitoring and research on infant feeding should all be part of a public health initiative that has the potential to improve health on a nationwide scale.”

 Speaking ahead of the event, panelist Dr Liz O’Sullivan, Dietitian and BFLGI member said:

“Aggressive advertising and marketing of breast milk substitutes by industry influences and positively promotes infant formula to parents, health workers and policy makers without acknowledging or explaining the health risks, economic burden and environmental impact of their use.

Implementing stricter legislation can protect society from these marketing messages allowing families to get their information about how to feed their children from unbiased public health resources.”

Orla O’Connor, Director at the National Women’s Council added:

“Breastfeeding is about women and infants’ right to health, and how we can safeguard and promote this. Unfortunately, Ireland continues to have one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe. As a society we have a collective responsibility to ensure that all women receive the best possible support during pregnancy and post-birth so that they can make informed decisions on breastfeeding.

We know that breastfeeding represents a public health intervention that pays dividends in the long run. To achieve this we need both, sufficient resourcing from Government on the Breastfeeding Action Plan and the National Maternity Strategy, and much stricter marketing legislation around infant formula. Only when we see progress on these dual objectives can we be confident that the women of Ireland are being given a meaningful choice around breastfeeding uptake.”


For more information or to request an interview with event panelist or host, please contact

Vicky Kavanagh, Digital Campaigns & Communications Officer, NWC, Tel.  085 252 8616

Notes to Editors:

To register for the event, please do so on Eventbrite

About the organisations:

The National Women’s Council of Ireland

The National Women’s Council (NWC) is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters. The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. More information is available on www.nwci.ie

Baby Feeding Law Group of Ireland

BFLGI is an alliance of organisations and individuals working together to protect infant, young child and maternal health by ending marketing practices that commercialise infant feeding, mislead consumers and threaten breastfeeding.

While BFLGI’s primary aim is to protect breastfeeding, we also aim to protect babies and families who use infant formula. We do not seek to limit the accessibility of safe and appropriate infant formulae for those who need or want them. Rather, we want to enable parents to access unbiased educational information about infant nutrition and make informed decisions about how they feed their babies and eliminate industry influence on those decisions.

[1] Irish Maternity Indicator System National Report 2020 

[2] Irish Maternity Indicator System National Report 2020 

[3] Global Breastfeeding Scorecard 2018 

[4] World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action