Irish university awarded €2.5 million to lead groundbreaking breastfeeding study

UCC to lead major study to improve support for breastfeeding.

The University College Cork (UCC) will lead a major study to improve breastfeeding support and prioritise breastfeeding as a public health issue. The Irish university has been awarded €2.5 million funding from the Health Research Board (HRB).

The first-of-its-kind study will investigate and influence a cultural shift towards valuing breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to ensure child and maternal health.

Prioritising breastfeeding as a public health issue

Prof. Patricia Leahy-Warren, Head of School of Nursing & Midwifery, UCC, has received €2,445,580 to fund her project, which will investigate barriers to breastfeeding.

The ground-breaking project will specifically look at the practical, societal and cultural barriers that prevent women from breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding rates in Ireland

Despite well-established evidence on the value of breastfeeding in enhancing the health and wellbeing of current and future generations, breastfeeding rates in Ireland are the lowest of OECD countries.

Professor Leahy-Warren said: “Breastfeeding is not the sole responsibility of women, but society’s collective responsibility. We are delighted that the Health Research Board acknowledges the value of our research. It will enable our team to adopt a 3600 approach to shift the focus away from pressure on individual women and towards addressing government policy, legal protections, health systems, communities, and workplaces. It will also explore the social and cultural attitudes, familial support, health professional education and skilled breastfeeding support needed for women.”

The project aims to elevate the importance of breastfeeding as a key public health issue and influence sustainable population-level change to benefit the health and wellbeing of the nation. It has the potential to have wide-reaching impact not just across the island of Ireland but beyond.

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