A mum from Dundalk whose baby was born almost seven weeks premature has explained how important breastfeeding was to her while her daughter was cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Arah Heaphey, who was shocked when her baby girl was born nearly seven weeks premature earlier this year, is sharing her story to encourage other mothers to breastfeed their babies.
She thinks focusing on breastfeeding helped her and Annie during a very anxious time.
“I had attended a prenatal class at the hospital in January at around 33 weeks where I learned about breastfeeding and thank goodness I did because 5 days later Annie arrived, almost 7 weeks before term!
This, Sarah admits, “was a major shock as she wasn’t due until March”.
“Annie had a few complications and in the chaos of it all, a nurse told me the best thing I could do for her was to focus on getting my milk for her.”
Naturally, as a new mom, Sarah found it overwhelming at first.
“The midwives were so supportive they got me a pump in no time and I was pumping almost immediately.”
“Annie is thriving now at eight months old and we recently received some amazing news after her first difficult months of life.
“I am delighted to have breastfed for as long as I have, and I am sure it has benefited her endlessly. It has allowed me to focus on something while Annie was in hospital. and that was a major way for me to help him.”
Sarah shares her story during National Breastfeeding Week.
The initiative is supported by the HSE which encourages parents to seek free expert help and celebrates rising breastfeeding rates in Ireland.
The HSE has recruited 20 additional infant feeding/lactation posts within the nursing and midwifery departments to support breastfeeding parents. Midwives are the first to help with breastfeeding and if mothers need more specialized support, all 19 maternities now have a specialized lactation support service.
More infant feeding/lactation stations are being recruited to ensure nationwide availability within primary care services. One hundred breastfeeding groups have now resumed in-person meetings, providing important peer-to-peer support for parents on their breastfeeding journey.
“As breastfeeding rates increase across the country, we want to continue to build on this progress by supporting any parents who may need help on their breastfeeding journey,” says Laura McHugh, National Coordinator of HSE breastfeeding,
“In addition to the new positions, we have breastfeeding and prenatal preparation classes, our public health midwives and nurses and a growing number of in-person groups that are resuming post-pandemic. There is also a range of online resources such as virtual breastfeeding groups and mychild.ie, which offers practical advice on breastfeeding and the breastfeeding helpline via live chat and “Ask Our Expert” email, available seven days a week.
She notes that “63% of mothers are now starting to breastfeed in hospital and we have developed a holistic range of supports to help mothers and babies learn this new skill.”