Claire Cumsden and Alasdair Cumsden cutting a ribbon to open the exhibition in the presence of Jennifer Loughran and Claire Bulfin.

A unique and touching photographic exhibition that showcases the extraordinary challenge of nurturing babies was unveiled at Carrickpherish Library this week to mark National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

The theme of this year’s awareness week is “Expert help every step of the way.” 12 mothers in Waterford were invited to share their personal experience of their breastfeeding journey and generously submitted deeply personal photos of their families. Included were mothers who unexpectedly gave birth at 25 weeks to home births with the Domino midwife team  mums who relied on breastfeeding during a storm when the electricity was cut off, and a mother who donated to the milk bank in Enniskillen.

Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, Claire Bulfin, Lactation Consultant at UHW said in UHW, staff were seeing breastfeeding rates of 63% % on discharge. However, she added that breastfeeding didn’t belong in hospital, it belonged in our homes as it was part of real life. “You are the experts, I am just the facilitator. I thank all the mothers involved in this exhibition who gave so generously. This is real life, real struggles, real people and real successes.”

“We look forward to welcoming a Community Lactation consultant to the community in the near future. This will ensure mothers have continued support throughout their breastfeeding journey,” she added.

Claire facilitates a group every Thursday as part of an antenatal education programme at Carrickpherish library.  “I’m delighted to be working in conjunction with the Library Service and Healthy Ireland to bring collaborative care from the hospital into the community. The library is a really fantastic setting,” she said.

This is the first initiative of its kind in Ireland and Claire says the space at Carrickpherish is ideal for facilitating such a group. “The hospital space is extremely tight. People should only need to be in a hospital if they need clinical care. The ideal scenario is to have community hubs where people can come along to share information and knowledge.”

The group meets from 3pm to 5pm each Thursday and numbers vary from five to 15.

“It’s a really a hands-on approach,” explains Claire. “We use model babies and breasts. Culturally, in Ireland breastfeeding hasn’t been as high as other countries. Even though it’s normal and natural, it’s certainly a skill that needs to be learned.”

Claire went on to say that while breastfeeding rates were increasing locally around the country, the HSE wanted to continue to build on this progress by supporting every parent who may need help on their breastfeeding journey. “I am looking forward to colleagues taking up the new infant feeding/lactation roles around the country, and although not everyone will need their services, their support will make a big difference for parents who do.”

And there was lots of help available, said Claire. “As well as the new posts, we have breastfeeding preparation and antenatal classes, our midwives and public health nurses and a growing number of in-person groups resuming post pandemic. The Cuidiú organisation (see have been fantastic, in addition to the Library services. There are also a range of online resources such as virtual breastfeeding groups and, which has practical breastfeeding advice and the ‘Ask Our Expert’ live chat and e-mail breastfeeding support service, available 7 days a week.”

One of the mothers featured in the Waterford exhibit is Brianna Connaughton, who is also a Health Promotion and Improvement Officer with HSE/South East Community Healthcare’s Health & Wellbeing Division. In her testimony, Brianna says:

“Breastfeeding has been one of the most challenging and one of the most rewarding experiences of my parenting journey so far. I have been very thankful that I have been able to feed both my girls Willow and Luna. The support and encouragement of my partner really helped getting me through these times. With patience, persistence, sleep and time, each time each feed got better. We both learned a little more and in a few weeks we found our groove. As a family, it has brought us connection – and shown us how resilient we are and how well we can all work together!”


Justine Dwyer
The Munster Express
First for News