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Evidence review: Interventions to promote breastfeeding

29 November 2016

2,213 search results whittled down to 36 quality studies on interventions that promote rates of breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding.

'This is an example of the type of solid evidence that the HRB can provide to underpin the development of national health policies', said Graham Love, Chief Executive at the HRB.

The Department of Health asked the HRB to carry out a review of interventions which aim to increase initiation, exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding. The evidence is to assist the HSE as it draws up a new Breastfeeding Action Plan.

The team carried out a review of reviews, or umbrella review, which aimed to identify all potentially relevant systematic reviews published between 2005 and 2015.

The combined searches yielded 2,213 references. The titles and abstracts were screened and the most pertinent texts read. This allowed the original number to be whittled down to a total of 44 reviews.

These were then subject to further assessment and weak and / or inappropriate studies were discounted. The team were left with 36 studies to analyse in depth.

Commenting on the report's results, Marie Sutton from the HRB said,

'There is a substantial body of consistent evidence that provides a sound basis to proceed with education, counselling and support programmes. These should be of high intensity and continue over the antenatal, intrapartum and extended postnatal period in order to improve rates of breastfeeding among women in Ireland'. 

You can download and read the full report from the HRB website at the link below.


Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in Europe, with rates of ever breastfed at 55%, compared with Sweden and Norway, which have rates of 98% and 95%, respectively. In addition, despite improvements in recent years, rates continue to lag behind other countries. Breastfeeding in Ireland: A five-year strategic action plan is the current government policy on promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding in Ireland. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is currently drafting a new HSE Breastfeeding Action Plan.

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