Press Release

Minister Martin announces establishment of the National Committee on Breastfeeding

“Breastfeeding provides the best opportunity for a healthy start in life for infants and young children” Minister of Health and Children, Micheál Martin TD said today (21 December, 2001) when he announced the establishment of the National Committee on Breastfeeding. The main focus of the Committee will be to undertake a comprehensive review of the 1994 National Breastfeeding Policy. This policy detailed a series of recommendations aimed at improving the rates of breastfeeding in this country. While many of the recommendations have been implemented, it is acknowledged that the incidence of breastfeeding in Ireland continues to be lower than that of our European counterparts.

“We must offer all women and their families the opportunity to make informed choices around breastfeeding. As we all know, breastfeeding provides enormous benefits to both mother and baby. A baby´s first year of life is a time of unprecedented growth and development. Breastmilk is specifically designed to optimise the baby´s potential during this time and for years after breastfeeding has ceased. We must provide support and develop greater awareness of these benefits,” the Minister said.

The Government´s commitment to greater awareness raising and support for breastfeeding is confirmed in the Health Strategy Quality and Fairness – A Health System for You. National Goal No 1 Better Health for Everyone sets out as a key objective the need to strengthen measures to promote and support breastfeeding. The Minister added that “the establishment of this Committee along with the recent appointment of the National Breastfeeding Co-ordinator will provide us with a wealth of expertise to assist in reaching this goal. Establishing the Committee will ensure that work already being done can be further developed and augmented. The launch of the Committee will be welcomed by both the statutory and non-statutory sector involved in the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding”.

The Minister went on to say “We must look at the barriers to breastfeeding and how they can be overcome. This Committee will provide us with the platform to influence and change Irish society´s attitudes towards breastfeeding. A society that offers support and recognises the enormous benefits of breastfeeding should be our aim”.

The terms of reference of the Committee are: –

To review the 1994 National Breastfeeding Strategy and

  • identify recommendations not yet implemented;
  • identify those organisations charged with responsibility for implementation;
  • engage with such organisations to establish commitment and advise on best practice.

“I welcome the acceptance by Professor Miriam Wiley of the position of Chairperson of the Committee”. Professor Wiley is Head of the Health Policy Research Centre at The Economic and Social Research Institute. A leading national and international expert in health research, Professor Wiley has undertaken research and consultancies for major health agencies and government departments at national level and for a wide range of international organisations. These organisations include the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the US Office of Technology Assessment. “I have no doubt that Professor Wiley´s wealth of experience and expertise will add greatly to the success of the National Committee on Breastfeeding”.