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New lactation specialist in Mayo University Hospital making a difference to breastfeeding mothers

Earlier this year Mayo University Hospital (MUH) appointed its first Clinical Midwife Specialist in Lactation, Mary Sammon. Mary has been looking after mothers and babies in the Maternity Unit as a midwife for 27 years but took up this specialist post to provide expert antenatal and postnatal breastfeeding support and education in MUH.

It’s really important that parents are supported in their breastfeeding journey and supports for mothers beginning breastfeeding and for those who wish to continue on their return to work and beyond are being highlighted during National Breastfeeding Week (01 to 07 October). This year's theme is 'Making our communities and workplaces more breastfeeding friendly'.

Speaking about the importance of breastfeeding for infant health Mary said, “National Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to discuss the importance of breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed babies and young children. Breastfeeding gives babies the best start for a healthy life and it protects both mother and baby, the health benefits are undisputed. It is also crucial that women are empowered, enabled and supported on their breastfeeding journey.

“We are seeing improvement in breastfeeding rates in Ireland and this is something I would love to see progressing. The number of babies being breastfed is continuing to grow. New HSE figures for 2022 show that 62% of babies were breastfed when the public health nurse made their first visit after birth. The figure was 59% in 2021. In 2017, it was 55% and has been rising since then. 

“In my role as Clinical Midwife Specialist in Lactation in MUH I see lots of mums who experience various challenges with breastfeeding, especially in the early hours and days. There can be issues with position and attachment, some mums can find it difficult to breastfeed after a caesarean section, others can have concerns about milk supply and need reassurance. Breastfeeding is a learned skill and takes patience and practice and this is where my role becomes important as I can give that skilled help, support and follow up in those early days in hospital.

“I can help patients with breastfeeding while they are in the Maternity ward, and also am available to patients after they go home with their baby. Patients can be referred to me from the Maternity and Paediatric Departments in the hospital and am contactable by phone on 087 1814874.”

Ashling Neary from Castlebar is Mum to baby Lilly, aged 7 months. Speaking about the support she received in her breastfeeding journey Ashling said, "Breastfeeding my first child was always something that was very important to me, I didn't expect that we would have such difficulty.

“Lily was born on the 17th of February and due to a difficult labour I was unable to breastfeed or even get her to latch for days. I had given up on this happening for us. I had to stay in hospital one extra night due to a blood transfusion and thank goodness I did because the next day I met Mary Sammon, who was invaluable.

“I met with Mary before I was discharged and I came back a few days later to meet with her for advice and guidance. She really helped put me at ease and made exclusive breastfeeding possible for us. Lily was five days old when we got her to latch and feed. Without Mary and the support she provides it would not have been possible for us. We have also engaged with the local lactation consultant Claire Larkin who holds several groups during the week supporting new mums across Mayo.

“I would encourage any new mum who is struggling, to reach out to the supports that are in place. Lily is now almost 8 months and we are still happily breastfeeding because of these fantastic women."

Other breastfeeding supports available to parents are available on the HSE’s including:

  • Ask the expert - live chat and e-mail support service which provides access to a breastfeeding expert is available 7 days a week. This is an excellent resource for women at every stage of their breastfeeding journey.
  • Contact details for 180 HSE and HSE funded volunteer breastfeeding organisations – search by county function
  • Practical advice across a range of breastfeeding topics e.g. feeding in the early days, how do I know if my baby is getting enough and tips on breastfeeding and returning to work
The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
Mayo University Hospital (MUH)