‘Everyone has a role to play in raising awareness and supporting breastfeeding in Northern Ireland’, that’s what delegates at the Public Health Agency’s (PHA) Breastfeeding Seminar, held yesterday [16 April] in Antrim heard about the importance of providing a supportive environment and ensuring that women receive the very best support to help them breastfeed their babies. Professionals and volunteers alike were unanimous in their call to give babies the best start in life.
The PHA recognises the importance of breastfeeding and the many health benefits it offers for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding for any length of time is better than not breast feeding at all. In Northern Ireland we have seen some progress with increasing breastfeeding rates at discharge from hospital from 40 % in 2004 to 45% in 2010; however breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland are lower than the UK as a whole and other parts of Europe.
Janet Calvert, Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator at the PHA, said: “Many initiatives have been undertaken in Northern Ireland to improve breastfeeding rates. Research indicates that interventions which have been shown to increase breastfeeding rates include effective information and support by trained health service staff, ante-natal education involving partners and families and support from breastfeeding peer supporters.
“We have seen an encouraging increase in the percentage of mothers who breastfeed in Northern Ireland. However, the figures indicate that we need to target breastfeeding support to improve our low breastfeeding rates among young mothers and women on low incomes, as figures suggest that twice as many mothers over the age of 20 will breastfeed compared with those under age 20.
“The PHA is supporting a multi-faceted approach to breastfeeding promotion and support as recommended by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) which includes the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, peer support, training of health professionals and targeted interventions for those least likely to breastfeed. We also commend the 300 plus businesses that are participating in the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ scheme. It all helps to create an accepting and supportive environment for breastfeeding here in Northern Ireland.
Janet continued: “Attendees at the seminar yesterday included breastfeeding coordinators, midwives, health visitors, breastfeeding volunteer counsellors and peer supporters and it proved to be a great success. We revisited the evidence base for what works in increasing the number of women choosing to breastfeed and provided examples of targeted interventions from breastfeeding mums that may impact on infant feeding decisions and support for women who choose to breastfeed.
“The experience and expertise gathered will be used to shape further action that will aim to improve information and support for expectant and new mothers and to increase breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland.”
Please contact the PHA Press Office on 028 90553663
Notes to the editor
Janet Calvert, Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator, PHA, Mum Vincenta Leyden with children and Mary Black, Assistant Director of Public Health, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA.