Fianna Fáil says a proposed funding cut to maternity hospitals to promote breastfeeding for new mothers is short sighted and should be reversed.

The HSE is set to withdraw €50,000 per year, under the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, to maternity hospitals that are taking part in a programme to promote breastfeeding.

Waterford TD Mary Butler says Ireland has exceptionally low levels of breastfeeding mothers, and this programme was designed to help new mothers make an informed decision.

The party’s health promotion spokesperson says just 35% of Irish maternity hospitals are recognised as being baby-friendly, and freezing funding is not going to help.

“Every mother deserves the opportunity to find out what’s involved, whether she wants to breastfeed her child or not,” she said.

“This programme promotes breastfeeding among new mothers. Now obviously breastfeeding doesn’t suit every new mum, but I still think it’s very important that the necessary information to inform them to make that informed decision is available to them.”

According to the World Health Organisation, children who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese, perform better on intelligence tests and have higher school attendance. It is also “associated with higher income in adult life”.

Longer durations of breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer for the mother.