Parents of newborns in 2020 have been turning to online experts for guidance on breastfeeding.

The HSE’s recorded a 57% increase in demand for their ‘Ask Our Breastfeeding Expert’ online service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents took to live chats on and emails for support on breastfeeding their babies along with wider pregnancy and child health information.

The most popular queries received by the service during this time included: how to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant, how to restart breastfeeding after a break and issues around pain and breastfeeding.

The support options available online are being highlighted as part of this year’s National Breastfeeding Week, which runs from today until next Wednesday, 7th October.

Patricia Neary, La Leche League leader, Shannon along with a little help from six month old Robin and her big sisters Rachel and Roisin conducting an online breastfeeding support group with breastfeeding mothers from her home near Bunratty, Co Clare this week.

The ‘Ask Our Breastfeeding Expert’ online service is available seven days a week with the live chat service available Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm.

Other supports have been developed during the pandemic, with a number of hospital antenatal breastfeeding classes and some breastfeeding groups run by the HSE and voluntary organisations moving online. Phone and virtual breastfeeding support is also being made available to replace face-to-face appointments as services try to re-establish safely, while face-to-face one-to-ones are being provided where needed.  

HSE National Breastfeeding Coordinator Laura McHugh said: “Parents who welcomed new babies in 2020 never expected to do so during a pandemic. We understand the past seven months have been hugely challenging for families in accessing face-to-face breastfeeding support in communities. I want to acknowledge the efforts by HSE staff and particularly the many breastfeeding volunteers who have continued to provide virtual and phone support during this time.”

Patricia Neary, La Leche League leader, Shannon along with a little help from six month old Robin and her big sister Rachel conducting an online breastfeeding support group.

“While mothers continue to be supported during their hospital stay and at home, the increase in queries to the ‘Ask Our Breastfeeding Expert’ service coincided with reduced face-to-face contact with other healthcare professionals. Important sources of breastfeeding information and advice such as antenatal classes and breastfeeding support groups had to be cancelled so the online support service is proving more popular than ever.

“Nothing can fully replace the face-to-face experience, but the impact of COVID-19 restrictions has underlined the vital role of online support for parents. We saw an increase in the number of queries from those who were pregnant and also from people who wanted to start breastfeeding again having stopped for a time. For example, one mother contacted the service on two occasions for advice whilst considering stopping breastfeeding and on returning to work during the summer; because of lockdown it meant she had more time at home and was able to breastfeed longer than she had originally intended to.”

“Having a new baby is life-changing and breastfeeding is a skill that takes time and practice to master. In the early days, skin-to-skin contact and keeping your baby close to you will help you recognise the signals they make to tell you they are hungry or want a cuddle. This will help you settle into a rhythm together. Responding to your baby’s needs helps them feel secure, while supporting their brain development. We want to let mothers know about supports available on to help them to breastfeed for as long as they wish.”