THE success of a team at University Maternity Hospital Limerick in giving the most vulnerable newborns the best possible start to life has been recognised at a major international conference in Dubai.
They were honoured for radically improving breastfeeding rates among very low birth weight (under three pounds, five ounces) and extremely low birth weight (under two pounds, three ounces) infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.
And the five-year effort at UMHL saw the team win best educational programme at the Excellence in Paediatrics conference, which attrcated healthcare professionals from 70 countries to the Gulf.
Low birth weight babies are especially difficult to wean on breast milk but according to a UMHL spokesperson, international evidence suggests early use of expressed breast milk lead to significant benefits in reducing high-risk neonatal conditions such as necrotising enterocolitis, a serious bowel problem.
Dr Roy Philip, consultant neonatologist and clinical director for maternity and child health, UL Hospitals Group, said the neonatal unit in Limerick had “achieved the enviable target of 100% breast milk exposure to the most vulnerable of infants through a quality improvement programme”. “We encourage families to become part of the care team and we maintain a steady and timely supply of donor breast milk with the assistance of Blood Bikes Mid West. This has resulted in breast milk exposure of 100% of extremely low birth weight babies up from a rate of 20% and very low birth weight babies went from 10% to 80% over the five-year duration of the programme.”
General breastfeeding rates in Ireland are behind international best practice guidelines and UMHL encourages those seeking more information to visit www.breastfeeding.ie