Press Release

Minister Opens National Conference On Breastfeeeding

Mr Noel Ahern TD, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment and Local Government has today (4th October, 2002) opened the National Conference on Breastfeeding “Breastfeeding in Ireland – The Way Forward” in Dublin Castle. This Minister of State opened the Conference on behalf of the Minister for Health and Children. It was sponsored by the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children to mark National Breastfeeding Week.

The main objective of the conference was to create a greater awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for Irish society.

“The evidence for the superiority of breastfeeding for children and their mothers is very compelling and this body of evidence is growing all the time,” said the Minister.

The Minister acknowledged that, despite the small improvements that have been achieved in breastfeeding rates in recent years, the national targets set in the 1994 Breastfeeding Policy have not been reached and Ireland continues to have the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe.

The Minister referred to the commitment given in the National Health Strategy, Quality and Fairness, to strengthening measures to promote and support breastfeeding. The two main issues that require to be addressed are:

  • The need to influence more Irish parents to choose breastfeeding for their children.
  • The need to offer the right kinds of support to mothers who have chosen to breastfeed so that they can do so successfully and for as long as they wish.

“Collaborative action will be imperative from a number of agencies both within and outside of the health system if Ireland is to achieve and sustain higher breastfeeding rates,” he said.

Dr. Stewart Forsyth, consultant paediatrician and lead researcher in The Dundee Infant Feeding Study was the keynote speaker at the conference. Data from this longitudinal study has given, and continues to give, a major endorsement to the value of breastfeeding, not just for the health of infants and their mothers, but shows that breastfeeding for as short a time as 13 weeks bestows health advantages that continue throughout childhood, into adolescence and beyond.

The Minister concluded by acknowledging that the broad range of organisations represented at the conference indicated an acceptance for this approach.