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Galway Breastfeeding Clinic wins at Irish Healthcare Centre Awards

Galway Breastfeeding Clinic wins at Irish Healthcare Centre Awards

A unique breastfeeding clinic designed to support mothers who are having difficulty breastfeeding has won two Irish Healthcare Centre Awards.  The ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’ in Galway won Best Community Outpatient Initiative of the year and Clinical Team of the year at an awards ceremony in May.

The ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’, the first of its kind in Ireland, is a collaborattion between the Maternity Department at University Hospital Galway (UHG) and the Department of Public Health Nursing, Community Healthcare West and was designed to support mothers who are having difficulty breastfeeding in the early weeks of their breastfeeding journey.

The clinic was set up in response to an identified need to help mothers who were presenting with their babies to the emergency department with common feeding related problems as there was no alternative referral pathway for them.

Dr Ethel Ryan, Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician at University Hospital Galway and one of the initiators of the ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’, explains; “Breastfeeding is a learned skill acquired through education, observation and experience. While it is the most natural way to feed babies, breastfeeding issues in the early weeks tend to be time sensitive.

“At our Shantalla clinic here in Galway, we currently see infants born at University Hospital Galway and all clinic referrals come through either the postnatal ward at UHG or your local Public Health Nurse.

“The first ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’ was held in December 2021 and saw 270 patients in the first year of service. This represented 10% of all infants born at University Hospital Galway in 2022. A second clinic per week was added in January 2023 as a result of increased demand for the service.”

“By identifying and addressing feeding issues as early as possible, it facilitates improved breastfeeding outcomes and therefore we aim to see all mothers and their infants in the same week of referral where possible,” added Dr Sinéad Gavin, General Practitioner, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Clinical Lead for the ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’.

The clinic identifies breastfeeding issues such as latching and positioning issues, low milk supply, tongue tie, poor or slow weight gain, excess wind, cracked nipples, mastitis and over supply of milk. Each mother and baby receives a 45-minute appointment which includes a comprehensive history assessment, a breastfeeding evaluation, infant oral assessment and a personalised treatment plan. Tongue tie release procedure is also performed, if required.

An independent audit of the clinic reviewed 40 patient files which demonstrated 57% of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months. This compares to a national average of just 23% for the same time period. Post clinic reviews saw that 97.5% of mothers reported that their breastfeeding issues had been resolved and therefore did not require acute hospital care.

Speaking about the expansion of the clinic, Dr Ethel Ryan said, “We are at present looking to expand the service to all Galway moms and their newborn infants with the goal of eventually extending the ‘Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic’ to other maternity units within Saolta in partnership with our Public Health Nursing colleagues from across the region.”

“We are delighted to be collaborating on this project with our colleagues from University Hospital Galway and look forward to the next step in developing and expanding the service further,” said Helen Martin, Director of Public Health Nursing, Community Healthcare West.

“This project supports the government's Enhanced Community Care Programme (ECC) by improving and expanding community health services and reducing pressure on hospital services. 

“Community projects such as the 'Well Baby Breastfeeding Clinic' assist moms in developing a successful nursing relationship, which will have positive health benefits for future generations.”

The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
University Hospital Galway (UHG)